GN Bureau | November 17, 2016
What Sitaram Yechury of CPM said during the demonetisation debate in the Rajya Sabha on November 16 (mildly edited and truncated for clarity):
[...] If you don’t have paper, use plastic’. Kahan se layenge? What is the coverage of your plastic money? Only 2.6 crores out of 113 crores of Indians have got credit cards. Fourteen lakhs are the card readers in your retail shops, and outlets for 113 crore people. Will that run our economy? Eighty percent-plus is cash economy, which is called the payment and settlement system. From your truck drivers to your fishermen, to your daily workers, to your agricultural labour and to your farmers, everybody is suffering.
In the morning, I shoved the two-thousand rupee note in my pocket. I got it from this bank here. Nobody is willing to take it because they can’t give me change; I can’t spend it for anything. With that two-thousand rupee note, I travelled from here to Chennai by flight. At the airport, I couldn’t buy anything. From Chennai to Tirunelveli, I went by the Nellai Express straight. On the train, I couldn’t buy my food or coffee. I landed up there and came back to Delhi, I still have that note! What is this?
What are you doing to this country? Tea garden workers are committing suicides out of economic distress. In Assam, there is a by-election the day after tomorrow. So, for the Assam tea gardens workers, the Central Government has given an exemption, but not for the Bengal and Darjeeling tea garden workers. I am glad that you are giving this exemption. But when you are giving this exemption to Assam tea plantation workers, why are you not giving it to other tea plantation workers?
Maharashtra Government has declared today that Rs.500 or Rs.1000 notes can be used for cinema tickets. What is this? We can’t use that one-thousand rupee note or five-hundred rupee note to buy a cup of tea or eat our food, but you can buy cinema tickets. What else is it but allowing the black to be converted into white?
Yes, there is an accusation but I am making it. How are these exemptions given by pick and choose?
I have here with me the details, along with the Bank Account, MICR number, of Indian Bank branch in the Central Avenue, Kolkata, where, on 8th November, a few hours before the Prime Minister's announcement, one crore of rupees in 100 packets of 500 and 1,000 notes was deposited by the local BJP unit. Prove me wrong. I will be happy. Prove me wrong, but this is evidence. I have all these details here. So, what Sharad Yadavji was saying is correct, that it has to be investigated. This is what has happened all over the places; that you heard earlier.
And, then comes this Paytm advertisement with Prime Minister appearing on it telling people to move to a cashless society. It is no longer 'Jai Hind'. Now, the Prime Minister is appearing in advertisement saying 'Jio Hind'. What is happening? One country in the world has moved into a cashless economy, and that is Sweden. It has taken them all these years because they have 100 percent coverage of Internet for all the citizens. What is the coverage of Internet today in our country? What is the coverage of your 4G and all these things on your mobile phones? Wealthy persons have four phones with them. You can't count the number of sets and say that so many people have them. So, where are you taking a cashless economy in a country like India where 86 percent of all your economic activities are cash transactions? Payments and settlements are the cash transactions by the day. It is absolutely white money. It is not black money. I will come to black money later.
This only reminds me of a Roman Senator. I am sorry to say I am going back into history, maybe medieval history, but we had a Roman Senator, whose name was Gracchus, who was talking about a Roman Emperor, one of the Caesers, not Julius Caesar, but he was talking about Caesar Marcus Aurelius Commodus Antoninus Augustus, if you want the full name. And, what does this Senator say? I quote, “I think he knows – he is talking about the Emperor – what Rome is. Rome is the mob. Conjure magic for them and they will be distracted. Take away their freedom and they will still roar. The beating heart of Rome is not the marble of the Senate, it is the sand of the Colosseum. He will bring them death and they will love it.” Now, it is ominous, but I am recollecting this because that is what is actually happening here.
Now, if this is the sort of difficulties the people are being put to, even then I will be willing to give this Government some degree of iota of credit if we are going to achieve any of the objectives that we have been told that this move is going to achieve.
The Prime Minister mentioned four objectives. One of them is controlling the black money. Now, all of us here have spoken in the last one decade, many times, on black money. We want it controlled. We want it eliminated. And, the World Bank now says that as per latest figures, 20.7 per cent, or nearly 21 per cent, of the Indian economy is in black economy, that is, more than one-fifth of our economy. No doubt, this has to be controlled, this has to be taken away. But then, where is this black money?
All estimates say that six per cent of this black money is in cash, and, remember, people who generate this black money are not misers. They do not keep their black money stacked under their beds. Their black money is in circulation. Their black money is making more black money.
Their black money is in real estate, and, now when the 500 and 1000 rupee notes are not there, you have a 15,000 rupee coin, that is, a gold coin and the gold imports have surged in the last four days. According to one estimate, it has nearly tripled. So, this is where the buying is going on. Jewellers have advertised this. I have got SMS messages on my phone, they are being sent to everybody, saying that “our shops will remain open throughout the night and till 20th December, we will accept 500 and 1000 rupee notes; you can convert black money into gold”. Are you catching black money or giving them opportunity to covert that into white?
Sir, it was this very Prime Minister who told the whole country that ninety per cent of the black money generated in our country is lying offshore and is lying in tax havens. He, not we, told this. During the 2014 elections, he promised fifteen lakhs of rupees into accounts, into my account, into everybody's account and said that we all would get fifteen lakhs of rupees because the black money would come back. So, if it is all there in tax havens, what are you doing? Is this going to get that money back? The Swiss authorities say that they have given a list to this Government. We do not know. We debated it earlier. The hon. Finance Minister said that ‘because of legal problems, we can't make it public’. You know about the Mauritius route and the Singapore Free Trade Agreement. They account for more than half of these inflows. Instead of doing anything in all these areas, you want to control black money. Is this going to control black money? It will be six per cent, if it is going to control also. But in the bargain, it is like the Prime Minister clearing a pond to kill the crocodiles forgetting that the crocodiles can survive on land also. The big crocodiles have survived and the small fish have died. The small fish are dying now. The crocodiles are all surviving.
So, none of the four points that the hon. Prime Minister has mentioned stand on any sound footing – whether it is black money or whether it is counterfeit currency or whether it is terror-funding or whether it is corruption. So, if these objectives are not to be fulfilled by this, what is the meaning of this move? Just now Mr. Sharad Pawar was drawing my attention to it, a very correct thing. What about your district cooperative banks? At State level, it has been allowed but not to the district and rural cooperative banks. Bulk of the people and bulk of Indians today, who are actually dealing with this, are in rural cooperative banks. And these are all very, very healthy banks. Their NPAs are less than one per cent or two per cent. But you don’t allow them to change. It means the ultra-rich can come here and do it, but in rural areas, where 86 per cent of your population is actually dependent on these bank transactions, you are not allowing it. What is the meaning of this? The people can easily pass it off saying that it is Tughlaqshahi, the Mohd. Bin Tughlaq regime. ...(Interruptions)... Nadirshahi …
Therefore, Sir, this is not meeting the objective of what the Prime Minister has set out to do on the basis of making this move of withdrawing 1,000-rupee and 500-rupee notes.
People are suffering and the suffering is increasing by the day. By the day, it is increasing because I am surprised, in the last four days the lengths of the queues have even grown. It is a pitiable condition. Why are you agonizing Indian people? Anyway, agonizing is to convey, I mean, an idea or a notion that I control your personal life. I control your personal life and I control your existence. What is this but a fascist message? Why is all this being done? Tell me. None of the four objectives can be met with this. Those who can get away scot-free are getting away scot-free.
He says, go to the banks, cashless society, plastic money etc. What banks? In our rural areas, 80.8 per cent of the rural population is not covered by banking system. Sir, 80.8 per cent! And, geographically, Sir, 93 per cent of the geographical areas in rural India are not covered by banks. What banking Prime Minister wants us to go to? Which world are you living in? There is a ‘Chamakta Bharat’ or a ‘Shining India’. For them, Paytm, for them e-wallets, for them all these things will be there but I tell you the percentage, what it means - a miniscule per cent. Whole of India, that is, Bharat is ‘Tarasta Bharat’. That does not have access to these banking facilities, does not have access to your plastic money. When 86 per cent of your cash transactions are in 1000 and 500 rupee notes, you suddenly withdraw them, it is a complete mayhem that you have created. One source said, ‘25 suicides in the last six days’, but the numbers are still increasing. People cannot get their fathers or mothers or children treated in hospitals.
Your units in Bengal can go and deposit four hours before the Prime Minister announces ...(Interruptions)... This has to be investigated and, I think, the consensus of the House must be taken. If there should be a JPC, let there be a JPC. Let there be a proper investigation into this and we really would like to know what the motive of this Government in doing this is. Before every Parliament Session, something like this is done so that the Parliament discussion is entirely derailed. We cannot talk about what is happening to our people, how they are dying out of hunger now. There are 452 vacancies in the High Courts. Your poor litigants are suffering. There is an increase of 26 per cent in farmers’ suicides. You are not able to provide relief to your annadata.
Instead of discussing all these things, we are now stuck in this.
The Prime Minister has now said – I am shocked – fifty days more is required. He said that fifty days more are required for alternative arrangements to come into place. Till that alternative arrangements are not in place, allow these notes to be transacted for all white transactions at public utilities and public purposes. Do not stop them for usage in hospitals, usage for transport, usage for railway tickets, usage for all these things. You get your alternatives ready. ATMs are not calibrated. Then he says that it took them ten months of preparation. Mr. Sharad Yadav has said that. What are you preparing if you don’t have the alternatives in place? So till the alternatives are in place, allow them. The Chief Ministers of Kerala and Tripura have written to the Prime Minister saying that – currency is a Central subject and it is on the Central List – permit the State Governments to accept these 1,000 and 500 rupee notes for all State Government transactions and public transactions. That permission must be granted immediately.
Thirdly, this facility given to nationalized banks and central banks, etc., should be extended to rural cooperative banks with immediate effect. That has to be done immediately. That is the only thing that can provide relief to the rural population on a big scale.
Finally, please have this entire thing investigated. I beseech you, in this House, to accept this demand that this should be completely investigated and till alternative arrangements are put in place – the Prime Minister has declared 30th December to be the final date after which these notes will not be valid – allow them to continue.
Sir, I hope that the Government will take this seriously not because anybody or an individual is saying but because the whole country is saying this. So please take this seriously and respond to it.
Read the full transcript of the speech on the Rajya Sabha website
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