Opening the attack on the government for its decision to scrap the high-value Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes, former prime minister Manmohan Singh told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that ‘50-days’ was like a torture that could have a disastrous effect on the poor and the deprived. He termed the implementation of the demonetisation a case of “organised loot and legalised plunder.”
Describing the exercise as a “monumental disaster,” Dr. Singh said the decision could lead to the GDP declining by two percentage points. “This is an underestimate and not an overestimate,” he said.
Squarely putting the blame on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who attended the House for the first time since the winter session commenced and also the first time since he announced demonetisation on November 8, he said, “The ordinary people have suffered as a result of this imposition on the country overnight by the PM.”
Referring to John Maynard Keynes, an influential British economist of the 20th centu- ry on Mr. Modi’s call to wait for 50 days, Dr. Singh said, “I am reminded of John Key- nes, who once said ‘In the long run, we are all dead’.”
‘Govt. must take action’
Later he told The Hindu that the government should “reflect” on his speech in Parliament for answers on how to move ahead.
“It is for the government to reflect on what we have said in Parliament. It is not for me to say what they should do, the government must take action,” he said on his six-minute speech in the House.
Dr. Singh added that “all governments have considered [demonetisation measures] from time to time,” but declined to add why he had rejected the idea during his tenure. When asked why he had used strong terms like “organised plunder” and “legalised loot”, Dr. Singh said, “Well that is what the common people feel, they feel that way.”
Deaths in the queue
Earlier, Dr. Singh opened the discussion on demonetisation as soon as the Rajya Sabha resumed operations at noon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked in at 12 noon, amid hoots by the Opposition benches.
The debate resumed by suspending the Question Hour.
He asked the Prime Minister to name “any country he may think of where people have deposited their money in the bank but they are not allowed to withdraw their money,” which alone “is enough to condemn” what has been done in the name of greater good of the people.
“It is no good that every day the banking system comes with modification of the rules, the conditions under which people can withdraw money. That reflects very poorly on the Prime Minister's Office, on the Finance Minister's Office and on the Reserve Bank of India. I am very sorry that the RBI has been exposed to this sort of criticism, which, I think, is fully justified,” Dr. Singh said.