We Protected Our Economy And Continue To Build It Brick By Brick Over The Last 30 Years

P chidambaram Mon, 16 Jan 2017

We Protected Our Economy And Continue To Build It Brick By Brick Over The Last 30 Years

 We Protected Our Economy And Continue To Build It Brick By Brick Over The Last 30 Years

 Excerpts from the speech delivered by former Finance Minister  Shri P. Chidambaram at Talkatora Stadium, New Delhi on 11th January, 2017

There is a statement in both English and Hindi which captures what has happened over the last two and a half years, particularly what has happened over the last 17 days. I don’t intend to read these statements. Nor, will I explain the contents in great length. I wanted to understand the grave damage there has been done to our economy that was being built brick by brick in the last 25 to 30 years. In the last 30 years, we had challenges, we had great challenges in 1991. We had a very severe international financial crisis in 1997. The world economy almost collapsed in 2008. We saw setback in 2012.

Yet, at every stage thanks to the guiding hand of the Congress Party. We protected our economy and continue to build it brick by brick over the last 30 years. In a 10 years period 2004 to 2014, 14 crores people were lifted out of the poverty. Never before in human history have so many people been lifted out of the poverty in a period of 10 years.  

 Congress Vice President, Shri Rahul Gandhiji spoke about the various initiative taken by the present government. Each one was a revenge and the BJP government is the best event manager known to Indian history. Each event last a few weeks or a few months and every event is replacement of another event. People no longer speak about Swachh India, no longer speak about Skill India, no longer speak about Make in India, Startup India, Stand up India and people wanted to know is, when will there be jobs in India, when will jobs come back to this country. People want to know, when there will be social harmony in India, when will there be social harmony among different communities. And people want to know when they will there be peace in India, when there will be peace on our borders and our jawans are not killed every day. All that is captured in this statement. The statement captures, the atrocities inflicted on Dalits. Make it known, better example that what happens in Una, Gujarat. Its captures the rage in Colleges and Universities, there will be no better example that the last testament of Rohith Vemula. The young scholar of Hyderabad who died, writing a letter very sad ‘My birth is my fatal accident’. All that is captured in the statement.

 But today I am going to take a few minutes to explain to you the enormity of the calamity imposed upon us on the 8th of November, 2016 in the name of Demonetization. I have spoken on several occasion? I have spoken on Television channel, I have written columns. Many few may be familiar with arguments that I have made. India is no different from any other country. Most people use cash. And most people like to use cash. When the Prime Minister says he will make India cashless society. He is talking about something which has not happened anywhere in the world. More than that he is talking about something he has no right to do, it is my right to use cash, it is my right to use a credit card, it is my right to use a Debit Card, it is my right to write out a cheque. That is, my right as a Citizen. I decide to myself. When I buy adult diapers, when a lady wants to buy under garments, when an elder citizen wants to buy medicines, it is my right to decide whether I will buy by cash over the will leave a record. 

 This is understood by every civilized country. In Germany one of the most developed countries of the world 80% of transaction are in cash. In Austria, 80% are in cash, in Australia 60% is by cash, in France 52% by cash, in the United States 46% is by cash. In fact, you count the volume of a American Dollars and European Euros are in circulation the total currency in circulation in the form of Dollars and Euros has actually doubled in the last 10 years. People are using more cash, not less cash because he realize it is my right, it is an individual right to decide, will he will use the cash or no cash. In India, for centuries have used cash. 94% of all transaction in India is by cash. Cash in the hands of a farmers, cash in the hands of a self employed, a lady who makes herself buy Pav Bhaji in the streets of Mumbai or Idlis on the streets of Tamilnadu, a lady outside the Hanuman Temple having flowers and making garland and selling it, somebody who sell vegetables, somebody who sells fruit. All of them deal with cash, it is there right to deal with cash and the cash in their hands is not black money. It is perfectly legitimate money in one stolen, the Prime Minister said 500 rupee notes and 1000 rupee notes will no longer be legal tender.

 And he set out 3 objectives, first he said Black Money, and he said fake currency, and he said corruption. According to him on 8th of November he killed Black Money, he will kill corruption, and he put end to fake currency. 70 days later there should be no Black Money, 70 days later nobody should give bribes and take bribes, 70 days later there should be no fake currency. I am asking the Prime Minister to put his promises to test. In the last week I am not talking about what happened in 70 days in the last week in exactly 7 days before today. 7.6 lakhs in new 2000 rupees notes were seized in Kanpur, is it Black Money or White Money? 8 lakhs was seized in Ujjain, is it Black Money or White Money? 10 lakhs were seized in Meerut, is it Black Money or White Money? 20 lakhs was seized on the highway to Moradabad, is it Black Money or White Money? 

 I am throwing another challenge, in the month of May and June when medical colleges will open, engineering colleges will open. They will charge capitation fee. Let the Prime Minister say I killed Black Money in the month of May, and in the month of June. No parents did worried, no students did worried, nobody will ask capitation fee, nobody will take capitation fee. Let him do that promise. And give that promise today? When the Prime Minister says I put an end to corruption. The first instance of corruption in New 2000 rupees note, one hundred twenty four lakh notes were seized in Kandla port in Gujarat. The first instance of corruption of new 2000 rupee notes took place in Gujarat. Will the Prime Minister say from 8th of November nobody taking bribes, nobody asking for bribes. And then he says this will end fake currency. Fake currencies is already available. They found fake currency in Kolkata Bank, they found fake currency in Punjab, they found the teacher having a fake currency factory yesterday. None of these objectives served. 

 All that is happened is, he kept misery upon crores and crores of Indians. 45 crores people in this country live on the basis of working everyday, earning a daily wage or a daily income. 15 crore are manual labourers, yes to work in every town, in every city that is the place called chowk. In Delhi, it Chawari Chowk. Every town there is the Chowk, people come in the morning, a van will come, a lorry will come, take people to work. 15 crore people depend upon daily work and that work if not available, that day they have no income, they cannot feed their families. 30 crore people depend upon on a daily income. I told you flower seller, the fruit seller, the vegetable seller, all of them depend upon a daily income. If nobody buys some, then that day they have no income. For full 60 days, 45 crore peoples’ income has been taken away, wage been taken away, livelihood is been taken away. Who will compensate them. Farmers look at crash in prices potatoes, tomatoes, pees, cauliflower, cabbage, oranges every price has crashed. I was in Nagpur and tonnes of oranges was being sold for 40 thousand rupees on November 7th. On the day I visited Nagpur it was 25 thousand rupees. Now, who will compensate that farmer. And we adopted the condolences resolution for over a 100 people who have died, who will compensate those families. I demand that the Government of India compensate the farmers of India to the huge losses because of crash in prices. I demand that the Government of India compensate the daily workers, especially the manual worker who lost his job, lost his work and lost his wage for that day. And the way is, decision was taken, it is now absolutely clear this is the decision of one person as the Vice President said, one person decides I am the future, I am the leader, I will decide what will happen in this country.

 Friends, who are the officials most intimately connected were the decision concerning money. The first person must be the Finance Secretary, the second person is the Banking Secretary and the third person is Chief Economic Advisor. Now, tell me all of you read newspapers in the last 70 days, have you heard the Finance Secretary utter a word, in fact his name did not appear in the newspapers. That is the Banking Secretary incharge of Banking, in the last 70 days, have you heard the Banking Secretary speak a word. Above all, this Government has only one Economic Advisor, the Chief Economic Advisor and for the last 70 days, have you heard Chief Economic Advisor utter a word. It is obvious that none of them consult it. It is now clear the Government of India wrote a letter to the RBI on 7th of November asking the RBI to consider the Demonetization. Instead of RBI advising the Government of India, is the Government of India would advise RBI to consider the Demonetization. RBI called the meeting on 8th of November. I want to know when did the RBI issue notice towards its directors. How much time was given to the directors to attend the meeting. They are 10 independent directors of position in the RBI. In the last two and the half years 7 have been kept vacant. There are only 3 independence directors. One of them did not attend the meeting, only 2 of them attended the meeting. The meeting lasted no more than 30 minutes. We ask for the agenda paper RBI is not given it. We are asking for the minutes, does not give the minutes. RBI sends the recommendations, the Cabinet is waiting how does the Cabinet know that the RBI will recommend Demonetization. The RBI could not recommend Demonetization, how is the Cabinet waiting. RBI’s recommendation comes to the Cabinet and I am going to tell you something according to the records that we have been able to access, so far there is no record of the Cabinet meeting. A meeting is supposed to have taken place on 8th of November but there is no record of a Cabinet meeting. Where is the Cabinet note, where is the Cabinet decision and the Ministers were kept prisoners until the Prime Minister went on Television to announce Demonetization. 

 Never before, never before in India’s history has such farce be enacted in the name of Government exercising, Governmental powers and RBI exercising the RBI powers. Past governors of RBI spoken to governor Reddy, governor Jalan, all spoke up and said RBI is at reputational risk, RBI’s reputation is at risk today. I am glad the Vice President refereed to the RBI as an institution which means nurtured and built. Dr. Manmohan Singh himself was governor of RBI for many years. Government and RBI have differences. Government and RBI have differences but never has a Government treated RBI as some kind of a Chota (Small) Department of the Government of India. Today, we are in a situation where the economic losses are enormous.

 It’s now absolutely clear that GDP will be hit. It is only a person who says nothing will happen to the GDP except the Finance Minister, nobody in the world says the GDP will not be hit. RBI has said GDP will come down from the original estimate of 7.6% to 7.1%. I will tell you in my humble view I may be right, I may be wrong, the GDP will be hit by more than 1% it may hit as much as one and a half percent, it may be hit as much as 2% as Dr. Manmohan Singh told Parliament. 1% declined in GDP, 1% declined in GDP means one and a half lakh crore rupees lost to this country. 1.5 lakh crores lost to this country. Apart from loss in income, loss of wages, loss of lives, loss of livelihood, industries closing down, small and medium industries are closing down, cars sales are down 60%, the Fiat Company did not produce a single car in the month of December. The entire factory will shut down because not one car was produced. Jute, textiles, sugar every one of them is affected, 80% of small and medium industries have shut down. Apart from all this, the economy is going to take a big hit.

 We are going to pay price for the monumental folly of one person, saying I will decide what is the good for this country. I think the Congress Party must raise voice, speak for the people ultimately whether a decision is good or a decision is bad. Every decision can only be tested and whether it helps the people of India, it helps the poor of India, it must be empathy for the poor. This decision was taken to hit misery of the poor, millions of people have suffered and continue to suffer and will suffer for the next 2 or 3 months. I commend the statements to you, I wanted to read the statements in English or Hindi, I wanted to go back and translate the statements into the local languages, this statement must reach every single home in India. And we will pay price as long we do not speak up. The Modi challenge is just for us, the more we must speak up, the more we must write, the more we must go and meet the people. Every challenge thrown by this government must be met with utmost courage, utmost wisdom and only with and only the Congress with its long history of sacrifices in struggle can stand up to challenge thrown by this government.  Thank you