Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday put up a spirited defence of demonetisation in the face of sharp attacks at home and abroad, saying the move was only one of the many intended radical reforms to cleanse India of corruption and black money and make the country developed in one generation.
Calling the currency ban a “war against corrupt”, Modi said that the November 8 decision to spike 86 per cent – in 500 and 1,000 rupee notes – of the country’s total currency in circulation was a “short term pain for a long term gain” fraught with its own political risks.
“Let me make it clear. The government will continue to follow sound and prudent economic policies to ensure India has a bright future in the long run. We will not take decisions for short-term political point scoring. We will not shy away from taking difficult decisions if those decisions are in the interest of the country,” Modi said at Raigad in Maharashtra.
The Prime Minister’s defence of demonetisation, which has led to an unprecedented cash crunch and economic upheaval across the country, came after heavy criticism from the opposition at home and economists and media houses across the world.
Steve Forbes, the chief editor of Forbes magazine, in a damning editorial on Friday described the note ban as “breathtaking in its immorality” and “massive theft of people’s property”. The Wall Street Journal earlier dubbed it as “India’s bizarre war on cash”, warning the government not to force people to go cashless.
Opposition parties have also chided the government, calling the move anti-people and a bid to force people to deposit their money in banks and write off heavy debts of big corporate houses.
But Modi said he was undeterred and would pursue whatever would “make India developed in one generation”.
The Prime Minister was on a day-long trip to Maharashtra during which he inaugurated a slew of mega infrastructure projects, including the ambitious Mumbai Trans Harbour Link, two Metro Rail, road infrastructure projects, collectively worth over Rs 106,000 crores and the National Institute of Securities Markets in Raigad.
In Mumbai, where he addressed a rally at Bandra Kurla Complex, Modi said the spiking of the high value currency notes had struck a fatal blow to corruption and black money hoarders.
“I had promised that the common people will have to bear the brunt of demonetisation for 50 days. After that, the sufferings of the masses will lessen, and the real problems will begin for those handful of people indulging in corruption and black money hoarders,” Modi said.
He extended an invitation to such persons to come clean, pay their tax dues and honourably join the national mainstream with the 125 crore population.
“This is the beginning of the end of the corrupt. Come back and respect the laws. I assure, we will not hang you, but you will have to shell out what rightfully belongs to the people of this country,” Modi said.
“If they are not scared of Modi or the government, no problems. But they must not underestimate the mood of the 125 crore people. It has changed, they will not tolerate injustice, corruption and dishonesty. I assure we will not halt till we win this war,” Modi thundered to loud cheers.
In an obvious reference to the opposition’s protests against the move, the Prime Minister pointed out how attempts were made to misguide the masses, instigate them against demonetisation but common sense prevailed and people wholeheartedly endorsed the move.
In his Raigad speech to investment bankers, the Prime Minister also touched on the issues concerning capital market reforms.
He said the new campus of NISM at Panvel run by the regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) would help in widening the reach of stock markets so that benefits reach farmers – the largest section of our society.
“The true measure of success (of the stock markets) is in its impact in villages, not on Dalal Street or Lutyens Delhi. SEBI should work for closer link between spot markets like e-NAM (electronic National Agricultural Market) and derivatives markets to benefit the farmers,” Modi said.