November 24, 2016
Derek O’Brien speaks on demonetisation in the Rajya Sabha | FULL TRANSCRIPT
Mr Chairman, Sir, different people have reacted differently from the time this announcement was made by our Hon’ble Prime Minister himself on the November 8, 2016 at 8 PM. Some people, after hearing this announcement, and being part of the order that made this announcement, have quoted Bob Dylan. The same people who quoted Bob Dylan have also conducted polls on their mobile app to tell us that 93% people are very happy with the decision. And some people also feel so grieved that crocodile tears are also being shed. But I want to first begin my submission today by quoting word-to-word what one person said or started saying within one-and-a-half hours of this announcement.
“While I am strongly against black money, corruption, and am deeply concerned about common people, small traders, how will they buy essentials tomorrow? This is financial chaos, disaster let loose on the common people of India. He (Prime Minister) could not get back the promised black money from abroad, hence so much drama. I want to know from the Prime Minister how my poorest brothers and sisters, who’ve received their week’s hard-earned wage in one Rs 500 note will buy atta, chawal tomorrow. This is a heartless and ill-conceived blow to the common people, the middle class, the agricultural cooperatives, the tea garden workers, the unorganised labour sector, the shopkeepers, the small businessmen. All will suffer, there will be starvation deaths”.
Sir, I will carry on quoting. This is no Bob Dylan quote; this is Mamata Banerjee reacting to the decision – not ten days or not fifteen days later, but within two hours. With all the wisdom of an economist who perhaps has never been able to do a PhD in economics, as we heard the very erudite intervention today from our former Prime Minister. The reason is very simple, and the reason is only one word – because “Trinamool” means “grassroots”.
So, Sir, these are some reactions within two hours of this announcement. I will carry on, Sir, because we need to get a feel. Not everyone likes to hear these reactions, but it doesn’t matter. Sir, there are more and innumerable reactions to what was said. These messages, Sir, were bringing out the suffering of people; they were put up every day – “bhookh mein marte hain”, “transport business down hain”. “This is not any ego battle,” this is what she said. On November 13 she tweeted – “I humbly appeal to the Centre to save the common people from more suffering”. This is the way it went on, Sir. And finally, on the November 16, the Trinamool Congress went to Rashtrapati Ji and tried, as best as it could, with a few other parties, to highlight this.
To give you a feel, I’ll take a few more quotes, Sit. Here is another example: “Tea garden owners have expressed difficulty.” This goes on and on. There is total chaos. There is anger among housewives, there is anger among traders, there is anger among citizens, employees and it is getting worse every hour.
Sir, the point here is not who said it first or who said it second. The point here is, sixteen opposition parties stand united today. Now it is no more a solo voice, it is a chorus of the people, Sir.
And now let me explain point by point as to what this step can solve and what it cannot solve.
The first point is that everybody is against black money and everybody is against corruption. Let us make no two bones about it. It is the Trinamool Congress who even mentioned it in the Parliament first in 1998; in 2014 we had a demonstration outside and inside the Parliament.
Our first submission to this Government is, by doing this demonetisation, it is just one part of a larger step. What are you doing about electoral reforms? Today electoral reforms is a very big issue; 80% of the donations received by political parties are from unknown sources. so what are you trying to present by saying that this is going to solve the problem?
Point number two, Sir. Only six per cent of the black money composition is cash, what about the other 94 per cent? What about the gold? What about the real estate? You will say that you have brought the Benami Bill.
Sir, let us move on. Mamata Banerjee calls this the big black scandal. She said that ‘this is a black political decision, this is anti-commoner, a desperate attempt to start a black mechanism’. The situation is very grim Sir, and people are suffering.
After this, Sir, since this is not an ego battle, we offered some concrete suggestions. The first concrete suggestion we offered was, why don’t you allow the old and new 500 rupee notes to function parallelly for a longer period of time? We also suggested the government to print more small currency notes.
And that brings me to my point, the secrecy. Sir, this Government is saying that we had to do this suddenly because we had to keep it secret. If you had to keep it a secret, what prevented you from printing in the last one year, hundred rupee notes? No one would have suspected. Mr. Jaitley, why didn’t you print more 100 rupee notes? Perhaps you didn’t know when this announcement was to be made.
Next the Government tells us that ‘we printed more Rs 2000 notes because we are taking out 85% of the currency, so we needed to quickly put this currency back’. It doesn’t work. And I will tell you why. Simply because, secrecy cannot be an excuse to put people in pain. If it was so secret, then when you were doing spectrum auctions, why didn’t you plan that you had to reach out telephony to villages? Today, 4 out of 5 villages in India do not have a bank.
Sir, I want to tell you a story without mentioning names. I was talking to a minister in the Government. He tells me, ‘what’s the problem, I buy my vegetables, sabzi, do my laundry on plastic.’ I was looking at him, amazed. Of course plastic is in use, but there are basic issues with plastic that don’t work. According to your figures Mr Finance Minister, 95% of the debit cards in India are not used to buy anything; they are used to withdraw money from Bank.
I think it’s a mindset issue and the problem here is, the mindset gets continued. Because, after you do all this, again you ran a poll yesterday, which says 92 per cent people are happy. Which 92 per cent are happy? Who are you keeping happy?
Sir, these are not my numbers. These are government numbers.
- One out of 5000 people have credit cards
- Five out of 1000 people have debit cards
- Four out of five villages in India don’t have a bank
We all want to get to a cashless society. But before you get to a cashless society, Sir, you cannot get to a Lululand. Look what you have done. You have made 24 changes from the time of the announcement. Yet the Finance Minister, four days after the announcement, said the move was 100% good, 100% well implemented.
Sir, in the system in India here, is a flowing economy not just black or white. We need to understand this. Say, I withdraw Rs 400 from the bank account and use it to buy chewing gum and cold drinks from a paan wala. I pay him Rs 300. Now he goes and pays a portion of it to the retail chain and say Rs 80 to a farmer for paan leaves. The rest of the amount, unaccounted for in the record books becomes black money. So, my white money has become black. Is it not that?
So there is no watertight compartment between white money and black money. The way our economy is designed, there is a complete flow between black and white money. This is why there are problems with the implementation.
Sir, a prominent economist spoke before me. I want to share some numbers with the Prime Minister. Please reply to us, Sir. We are saying that GDP per day is Rs 45,000 crore. Of this, 59% is private consumption on household financial expenditure (which is about Rs 27,000 crore). 87% of this is cash. That’s about Rs 24,000 crore. So if it is Rs 24,000 crore cash, and it has been 15 days, my submission is, you can challenge my figure, we have lost Rs 3.75 lakh crore GDP in the last 15 days. This is not just about inconvenience at the ATM. People have made this point before. Only 0.02% of currency is counterfeit. So what you do to the other 99.98%? You penalize the whole country.
Sir, this will not do. Another important aspect, Sir, is secrecy. Even when the Atom Bomb was dropped, on August 6, 1945, we all know how secrecy played a part.
Sir, there are movements. I have had the privilege of being a worker in some of these movements under Mamata Di. The one I can remember more is Singur. We were alone. No one believed us. She fought, she fought, she fought. The movement was a people’s movement. It was a people’s victory. And, after all the victories, when everyone was a doubting Thomas, the Supreme Court of India, one month ago, gave us the verdict on Singur.
Sir, it is extremely important to understand, this is not a political movement. This is a people’s movement. You cannot suppress the voice of the people.
Sir, This is the narrative which the Government are playing. Anyone who opposes your policy, Mr. Prime Minister Ji, is not for black money. Anyone who opposes your policy is not anti-national. Why are you giving us these lectures on corruption and black money? We opposed and we are opposing you because people are suffering, we are opposing you because we believe economy will be killed. Why are you making this an issue? The government thinks they are some messiah and all of us are devils.
Sir, I have to say one thing. Why are we fighting this battle? We will be fighting this battle on behalf of the people. I get the confidence and inspiration from Mamta Di to say this, try as you may through your agencies to hassle and harass us, that will give us more conviction to fight you. Even try and put Mamta di in jail if you want. Try it, try it. We are fighting you on people’s issue.
Sir, talk to us about issues, talk to us about price rise, what have you done? Talk to us about education, what have you done? Talk to us about unemployment, what have you done? These are the issues, Sir. I have got all these figures here. But, this is not the time to go into figures. I am still saying this with all humility, this is not an ego battle, this is not about who reacted first to it, please understand we need to find the solution. It is good that after five days of deciding not to listen to us, now the Prime Minister has come to listen to us. In this spirit of humility you must listen to the next 22 speakers also. Then we will listen to your reply.
All we are saying is we need to find a solution and it cannot be found with someone with hubris. What is hubris? Hubris is extreme self confidence before nemesis. I would appeal to the Prime Minister – my Prime Minister, our Prime Minister – you made an announcement. If here was such a plan and place, why was that announcement made on the November 8, 2016 why not on the November 8, 2017? This is a question to ponder.
If you look at the practicality of printing the currency notes – the government must put those figures on the floor of the House – you will only come back to the equal amount after one year and that is also after printing 2000 rupee notes.
Sir, I once again in all humility appeal to the Prime Minister, through you. People have died; we have been saying this from day one. People have been suffering across the board. There are still some people who want to buy vegetables and get their laundry done with plastic money. We have nothing against the plastic economy but everything comes with time. Everybody cannot do it.
Sir, I think we said all we could say. We are appealing to the Prime Minister again with all humility to please take our suggestions because we do believe that Mamata Di has thought this out and everybody is now on the same page. This is not about anybody’s ego. Al 14-15 parties.
So far two persons have spoken from the BJP but I was quite interested in the first person who spoke from the BJP. Piyush (Goyal) ji was the first speaker. He is a chartered accountant, speaks very well – I am not being condescending – very affable person, always very articulate person in this Rajya Sabha.
But the one thought which has been bothering me for the last two weeks is that before he became the minister, for many years he was the National Treasurer of BJP. He is still is the National Treasurer of BJP. This is very interesting. I will leave you with it thought.