Current Affairs

Modi on a Crusade to end black money scourge despite opposition  

D.N. Verma

India’s dynamic Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a roll. He goes to different parts of the country and awakens people to become pro-active. He goes to various countries and makes their leaders India’s friends and they start making mutually profitable deal with him.

Modi had made promises at the time of elections two and half years back – all politicians do that – but he started working on those promises.

One promise was to wage a war on black money and corruption.

He is doing it and the latest on that front is demonetization of higher denomination of currency notes – Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 to bring black money in the open to punish the culprits.

The move was quick and sudden, the step demanded that secrecy and swiftness. It took the entire opposition – and many of the ruling party also – by surprise. While Modi was showered with praise by his party and many leaders in other walks of life, the opposition leaders decried it as dangerous and anti-people. Modi is facing the wrath but is not moved an inch from the task he had before him, and from the promises he made before the elections in 2014.

Now he has vowed to unearth as much money as possible and make a success of the latest move by December 31, this year. He has publicly said that if he fails to reach the target and failed in his mission, he would accept any punishment the people would decide to give him.

Speaking at a meeting in Panaji (Goa) Modi said, Nov. 13, that he has more projects in his mind to make India corruption-free and is ready to face the consequences as some forces are up against me with their 70 years of loot now in trouble.  

In an emotional but straight forward speech, Modi asked the people to cooperate. “This is not an end. I have more projects in mind to make India corruption-free. Cooperate with me and help me for 50 days and I will give you the India you desired,” Modi said after laying the foundation stone of Mopa Greenfield airport project and launching the work for the ‘electronic city’ project in Goa.

The Prime Minister also came down heavily on holders of ‘Benami’ property. "We will take action against 'benami' property, a major step to eradicate corruption and black money. If any money that was looted in India and has left Indian shores, it is our duty to find out about it," he said.

Modi said in very clear words: “I know that (some) forces are up against me, they may not let me live, they may ruin me because their loot of 70 years is in trouble, but I am prepared.” He became emotional a few times during his speech.

In a direct attack on the previous Congress-led UPA government (and now in the opposition), Modi said that "those who were involved in the coal scam, 2G scam and other scams, now have to stand in queues to exchange Rs 4000".

The Prime Minister assured the people that they may experience some hardship because of the demonetization of big notes but said “This suffering is only for 50 days. Once there the clean-up is done, not even a mosquito can fly. This is a 70-year old disease and I have to remove it in 17 months. I will expose corruption going on since Independence; even if I have to employ one lakh youths for this, I will do it," he said.

Referring to the criticism by opposition parties, he said "they thought if they pull my hair, I will do nothing. But even if you burn me alive, I am not afraid."

Agencies added: 

Observing that the entire population, barring a few lakh of corrupt people, was working to make this move successful, he said “on the night of November 8 when he had announced the demonetization plan crores of people slept peacefully, but a few lakh (corrupt) were going to buy sleeping pills as they had lost their sleep."

"You'll be shocked to know that many MPs asked me not to make PAN mandatory for any purchase of jewelry, but today those who never used to take care of their widowed mother, are depositing Rs. 2.5 lakh in her account."

Modi said he started this fight with the support of honest people and I have full faith in their power. “Everyone is saying that they are facing problem but they are happy that it will benefit the country," he said, while greeting the bank employees and the youths who were chipping in to help people standing in queues outside banks.

Referring to recent rumors about shortage of salt in the country, Modi said "this is being done by those whose black money is being rendered useless."

Launching the greenfield airport at Mopa in Goa and the work on electronic city project, the Prime Minister lauded Manohar Parrikar for ushering in political stability in the state after a span of several years.

He said the stability had brought in development, benefiting the state and quoted reports that Goa had emerged as "Number 1 among the smaller states. This is due to the efforts of the people of Goa."

Modi said he was proud to launch these projects which was promised by the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

He said the airport would lead to over 50 lakh people to come to Goa, which would not only benefit tourism but also generate employment and give a boost to the economy here.

The electronic manufacturing city "is not merely a project. I see that the foundations of a 21st century Goa, a digitally-trained, youth-driven and most-modern Goa. It will convert Goa into a power house of India's progress," he said.

According to observers demonetization has dealt a body blow to funding of terror in Jammu & Kashmir as well as Left-wing extremist violence across several states.

While ‘hawala’ cash transfers to terrorists and separatist elements based in Kashmir, have come to an abrupt halt, Maoist groups, particularly in Bihar and Jharkhand, are at pains to "convert" the extortion money that has been stocked as piles of cash into 'legal tender', according to sources.

An intelligence officer tracking terror-funding in Jammu & Kashmir said ‘hawala’ channels had run dry after the scrapping of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes. With no unaccounted cash to fund violence and protests in the valley, the lead trouble-makers have been forced to lie low. For, they no longer have the money to pay the local youths to pelt stones and stage violent protests.

A security officer said: "First turn off the resources of terror outfits and then neutralize terrorists before they can find a way of replenishing their coffers."

According to intelligence inputs, the bigger casualty in terms of sheer volume of funds, however, is Left-wing extremism. Intercepts of recent conversations among CPI (Maoist) leaders based in Bihar and Jharkhand show them discussing the fear of losing their piles of cash collected through extortion and 'levy'. Government agencies have, meanwhile, stepped up surveillance to track money flow in naxal-infested areas. There are intelligence inputs that Maoists may target banks and cash vans to make good their losses, leading the security forces to step up vigil.

It is learnt that senior Maoist leaders have contacted their trusted relatives and friends to explore possibilities of exchanging their stashed cash. Maoist under-trials have expressed helplessness in saving their cash stacked with confidants.

As per estimates of intelligence agencies and other experts, the annual money collection by Maoists may be over Rs. 1,500 crore. The extortion from ‘tendu patta’ contractors itself amounts to Rs. 200 crore per state. Besides, 'levy' is collected from road contractors and big industrial houses carrying out mining activities in states like Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

As many as 124 incidents of extortion/levy by Maoists have been reported so far this year, resulting in death of 17 civilians. Most of these incidents were concentrated in Bihar and Jharkhand. In a recent crackdown on Maoists on November 3, three persons were arrested and around 86.5 lakh recovered.

Maoist fronts in metros like Kolkata and Delhi have come forward to publicly oppose demonetization, with some holding protests demanding a rollback and members of a CPI (Maoist) student wing in Delhi launching propaganda against the move through social media posts.

However, the Supreme Court of India has lauded the objective behind government's demonetization drive but has asked the government to take

urgent measures to help the common people get money from banks and ATMs smoothly.
A bench of Chief Justice said the scheme is laudable because black money is used to fund terrorism of various forms to weaken economy.
The court also asked the government to consider raising the withdrawal limit.

PILs by four advocates had challenged the Central government’s power under the Reserve Bank of India Act to carry out demonetization in the manner employed in the current exercise, and sought the declaration of the notification ‘unconstitutional.’

Appearing for them, advocate Kapil Sibal and Kamini Jaiswal said they were not seeking stay of the notification, but questioned the legitimacy of the government’s decision and the manner of its implementation. "It is truly a cashless society. No one has cash now. Under what law and authority can the government impose a ceiling on withdrawal of cash by citizens?" Sibal asked.

In response, the government counsel, Mukul Rohatgi said the printing press was working day and night to meet the demand for the new currency notes, and said the real problem was for a section "that must either declare their wealth or use black money as toilet paper".

There was some interesting cross-fire between Sibal and Rohatgi. Kapil Sibal said the government had no inkling about the fallout of the decision and no preparation to handle the disbursement of the new currency notes or smaller ones to citizens. "Why is the government asking for identity proof from citizens when they withdraw their legitimate money from banks?" he asked.

Rohatgi made an impassioned statement in response and said, "For 50 years since Independence, citizens had been kept on wait for years to get a gas connection, a scooter, a car, schools for education and even opening of bank accounts. In implementing demonetization, there is bound to be some inconvenience for some days. This wait is negligible compared to the wait for 50 years,” he said.

Monetization is nothing new to India. During the World War II the then British government of India also resorted to the plan to unearth hoarded money by corrupt people and demonetized higher value currency notes. Finally, only those with black and hoarded money were in trouble, not the honest common man with limited and legitimate resources.

The political battle is likely to continue for some time, but things will definitely settle down unearthing a large cache of black money.