Demonetisation has crippled the unorganised sector and is responsible for suicides and unemployment, BJP MP and beedi baron Shyama Charan Gupta said at a parliamentary panel meeting on Thursday.
Mr. Gupta’s comments came during a meeting of the standing committee on finance, headed by Congress MP M. Veerappa Moily, which was discussing demonetisation. Importantly, it comes a day after Union Cabinet Ministers had fanned across the country extolling the virtues of demonetisation in tackling black money.
Economic Affairs Secretary Subash Chandra Garg, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar, and Chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes Sushil Chandra were also present at the meeting.
According to sources, Mr. Gupta, MP from Allahabad, asked officials if they had compiled figures on suicides in the unorganised sector due to demonetisation. “He asked if they realise how bad the situation is in the unorganised sector where he claimed people are facing starvation. He also asked the Finance Ministry officials if they have maintained any statistics on suicides by workers in the unorganised sector,” another committee member said.
Mr Gupta who heads a ₹250 crore beedi business, spoke at length detailing the crippling effect of demonetisation on businesses like his. First, he said the government had cut the cash flow resulting in reduction in jobs. A year on, with 28% GST on beedis , the government has further squeezed the sector with major dip in demand.
While Mr. Gupta refused to divulge details of his comments at the meeting, citing the confidentiality clause, he did not deny the questions he had raised. “I cannot reveal anything about the meeting without permission of chairman of the committee. I placed before the members my queries just like others,” Mr. Gupta told The Hindu .
“What is more interesting is that the other BJP members remained mum through the meeting and did not jump in support of the government. Rajya Sabha MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar was the only one to speak in favour of the exercise,” another member told The Hindu . Mr. Chandrasekhar is an independent MP from Bangalore, who owns Asianet and also finances the news broadcaster Republic.
Chinese imports rise
Opposition members in the committee pointed out that demonetisation has actually helped China.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said in the last year since demonetisation, imports from China have increased by 23%. He also pointed out that one of the main digital payment platforms, Paytm, is funded by the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.
The committee has in the past called the Governor of Reserve Bank of India. “Next week, we will be speaking to the telecomm industry both private and public to ascertain whether we are ready for a cashless economy. And the last round of deliberations will be with the stakeholders, corporates, micro, small and medium enterprises, agriculture sector and reality sector to assess the impact of demonetisation on them,” Mr. Moily told The Hindu .