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Note ban’s timing was perfect: PM

| | New Delhi

Rejecting Opposition’s criticism in the Lok Sabha that demonetisation was done in a hurry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the “demonetisation operation” was done when the health of economy turned absolutely fine and asserted that it was one of the first steps by his Government to clean India. He claimed that the Government has established a new work culture and strengthened democracy by respecting people’s power.

In a no-holds-barred attack on the Congress, Modi said unlike the Congress where only one family is recognised by its leaders, the BJP-led NDA Government has brought masses in “the mainstream”.

The PM began his speech saying “Akhir Bhoochal aa hi gaya” and referred to the earthquake in Uttarakhand though he was apparently taking a swipe at Congress vice-president Rahul’s claim in the last Session that his revelations about the PM may bring “an earthquake”. 

In his 90-minute reply in the House on Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address, Modi said the previous (Congress) regimes too had knowledge as to what needs to be done for people’s welfare but there was no intention to do so. He cited the Congress brought the Benami law 26 years ago but it was implemented only during the current regime.

The address was adopted by the House later amid interruptions and walkout by the Congress. Opposition had moved 189 amendments, which were rejected.

In his point-by-point reply to Opposition’s criticism of the Government’s policies, Modi illustrated effectiveness of his Government’s “pro-poor” policies at the micro-level which have provided employment, addressed farmer’s grievances in introducing Neem-coated urea, electrified villages, provided free LPG, laid roads with speed, and reduced cost of power consumption by introducing cost-effective LED bulbs.

Modi’s address was punctuated by loud protests by a section of Opposition members but the unfazed PM ridiculed Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s claim that his party contributed to strengthening of democracy. Modi said it is the people’s power which enriched democracy and launched a poor man like him to the Prime Minister’s post. Modi was hitting back at Kharge for his jibe on Monday that he could become the PM only because the Congress had preserved democracy for 70 years.

In his address marked with sarcasm and wit, Modi quoted Charvaka, the ancient school of Indian materialism, to mock at the Congress policies of “Jab tak jiyo mauj karo.”

He also raised pitch for simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies, asking all parties to consider the proposal, rising above political considerations as “everybody will face some difficulty” if it is implemented.

On demonetisation over which he has been under sustained attack, the PM asserted that the timing of the decision announced on November 8 last year was perfect. “Some people have said why was this (demonetisation) decision taken when the economy was doing well...It was the best time for demonetisation as the economy was strong. Had the economy been weak, then we could not have done it successfully,” he said.

“Before subjecting a patient to surgery, a doctor checks all the parameters of the patient and only when those parameters are fine the operation is done,” he said.

He also emphasised that the decision was not taken in haste as contended by some sections. “Don’t assume that Modi does anything in haste. For that you will need to study Modi,” he added. 

Modi listed out the steps taken by his Government to curb black money, including setting up of SIT, tightening the law on benami, Real Estate Bill, making PAN requirement mandatory for cash transactions of Rs 2 lakh and above and revision of tax treaties with countries like Mauritius, Singapore and the USA. “Had it been for political benefit, you would have done it,” he told the Congress.

Explaining why November 8 was chosen for the demonetisation decision, the Prime Minister said post-Diwali is usually a period when the business cycle subsides after peaking during the festival season. To questions regarding change of rules 150 times after demonetisation announcement, Modi said it was done to find ways to ease problems of people.

Spelling out benefits of demonetisation, he said it has brought everything on the record, including details regarding who has deposited money, where he has deposited and how much has been deposited. “There was a time when Income Tax officials used to operate arbitrarily. But that is history.... Now by use of technology and data mining, top names would be culled out without an I-T officer needing to go anywhere. They can just send SMS,” he said.

Modi said the first thing that his Government did after assuming office in May 2014 was forming SIT on black money as directed by the SC. He said the Real Estate Bill was passed, considering the fact that much of black money is parked in this sector. Jewellery market was also streamlined, he said.

“I received letters from MPs from all across political spectrum appealing for doing away of PAN requirement for Rs 2 lakh jewellery. But we did not go back,” he asserted.

“Kharge ji said that black money is there in jewellery, property, etc. I agree with you. But this House wants to know when did this realisation dawn on you? Because nobody can deny that corruption starts with cash, and result is jewellery or property or gold.

“Tell us, in 1988, when Rajiv Gandhi was PM, who had got a bigger mandate than even Nehru. From Panchayat to Parliament, everything was under your control....The Benami Law was enacted in 1988 but it was never notified... What is the reason that for 26 years, the law was not notified? Had it been notified at that time, 26 years back, it would have been a step towards cleaning the country and situation would have been better,” Modi told the Congress leader who had attacked him Monday.



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