Currency demonetisation: Modi warns of more action against black money holders

January 2017

Prime minister Narendra Modi warned of more actionagainst people holding illicit cash even as anger rose across the country onSaturday with ATMs running dry and banks struggling to dispense cash three daysafter the government demonetised high-value banknotes.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said it wouldtake two-three weeks to upgrade the automated tellers machines (ATMs) to enablethem to dispense the new Rs 1000 and Rs 500 banknotes.

“I would like to announce once again that after theend of this scheme, there is no guarantee that something new will not beintroduced to punish you (the corrupt),” Modi told members of the Indiancommunity in Kobe, Japan.

“I salute my countrymen. People stood in line forfour hours, six hours but accepted the decision in national interest... But Inever thought I will receive blessings for this.”

But back home, the initial public support for theclampdown on “black money” appeared to be waning as millions of people stood inserpentine queues in banks and ATMs for hours and yet failed to either exchangetheir old notes or withdraw any cash.

There were reports of angry people breaking the glassfaçade of a bank in Delhi while television footage showed police caning andshoving people at another branch. Reports of people falling unconscious andeven dying due to exhaustion fuelled public anger despite the government’sannouncements about having “enough cash” to meet the demand.

The death of at least five people, including a child,across the country are said to be linked to government’s shock decision. Policebooked a doctor in Mumbai after he allegedly refused treatment to a baby as thefather could not pay immediately. The baby later died.

“I am so angry at the lack of planning…before takingsuch an enormous step,” AFP quoted an office executive Raju Sundaram as sayingoutside a bank in the south Delhi’s Saket.

A bank teller in Delhi’s shopping hub of ConnaughtPlace described the demonetisation as “a hugely disruptive step”.

“It required a lot more planning, but that didn’thappen,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Fisticuffs also broke out among customers in severalparts of the country with ire directed at bank officials, made to work thisweekend – a holiday -- to meet the huge demand for lower denomination currency.

But Modi, criticised by the opposition for beingabroad during a crisis, said his government was determined to stamp out illegalcash from the system.

“I make it very clear that if anything unaccountedcomes up, I will check its records since Independence. Those who know me, theyare intelligent as well. They think it is better to offer it in Ganga than inbanks,” Modi said, apparently referring to reports of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notesbeing spotted flowing down the river.

November, 2017

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