Acknowledging the hardship being faced by people in India post the demonetisation of Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the government will go through all personal records since Independence, if required, on the issue of black money and no violator would be spared.
Modi’s remarks came as tempers flared at many places outside banks and ATMs across India as tens of thousands of anxious people waited for the third consecutive day to deposit or exchange their spiked currency or take out cash.
Opposition parties, including Congress and the Janata Dal-United, criticised Modi for his remarks, made in Japan, saying that he should have first targeted the “big fish” who are perceived to have black money.
“We will check all the records since Independence. If I come across any unaccounted cash, no one will be spared,” Modi said, addressing the Indian diaspora in Kobe.
He said if the money that surfaces in the banking system comes without its legitimacy and source then there will be proper scrutiny since the beginning.
“I believe very clearly, that unaccounted money if it comes to light, then the accounts will be scanned from Independence.”
He said the government would bring in as many people as possible to do this work.
His remarks come in the wake of the government demonetising Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 notes from midnight of November 8.
Modi said he had already opened several windows for people to come clean on their ill-gotten wealth. After that, he said, he had to think of other ways and demonetisation was one such step — a matter that had to be kept secret.
He said that after the window offered in September for people to declare their unaccounted wealth, Rs.125 lakh crore was received by banks.
“If after this you think that the situation remains like before then it’s not my fault,” he said, adding that after the demonetisation scheme, “there is no guarantee that more won’t follow”.
At the same time he said that he was aware of the hardship people were facing in India because of the demonetisation move, but emphasised that it was necessary in the larger interests of the nation.
He said people back home were hailing his decision but alleged that some were being prodded to speak against the government because of politics.
“I know it is difficult. People are made to speak against Modi but I salute the people… some stood in the queues for five hours, six hours but endured the hardship. The same way as people in Japan endured in 2011,” he said, referring to the earthquake-triggered tsunami five years ago that hit Japan.
He said the government had not taken the decision on demonetisation in haste.
“We had given 50 days to people to show their unaccounted wealth” till September, before the government decided to render the large currency bills illegal tender.
Congress spokesman Ajoy Kumar said that Modi’s “dictatorial decision of surgical strikes against black money has turned into a surgical infection for 99 per cent common man of the country”.
“Arrogance of one man has brought the country on the verge of destruction. He took this decision in a haste to show the people that his government is doing something. This is not going to address the issue of black money,” Kumar said.
He accused the government of leaking the information regarding demonetisation to state party units and industry friends, saying they turned their black money into white before the announcement.
“Many reports suggested that during last few months, unexpected amount was deposited in saving accounts in many banks. What does it mean? You saved your money and are targeting 99 per cent of the common man for black money,” he said.
JD-U leader Ali Anwar also took a dig at Modi, saying the Prime Minister should first target big corporates.
“Ambanis and Adanis are also of post independence era. Even Vijay Mallya flew during their regime. Prime Minister should first target people like him. What is he going to achieve by harassing 99 per cent of population who rarely have black money,” Anwar said.