File photo: Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma.
New Delhi: On the second anniversary of demonetisation, the Congress Thursday alleged it was the "biggest scam" of independent India that should be probed and asserted that the people will punish Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his "wreckless decision".
Congress's spokesperson Anand Sharma, at a press conference, also alleged that demonetisation was "a big money laundering project", NPAs have increased sharply, the banking system was struggling, and now the Modi government was bent on "snatching" the contingency reserves of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).
His remarks came after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Thursday said demonetisation resulted in formalisation of economy and increased tax base, with the government earmarking more resources for the poor and infrastructure development.
Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala, while speaking to reporters, asked why the BJP government did not issue any advertisement or congratulate people on the second anniversary of demonetisation as they had done in the past.
He alleged that demonetisation was the "biggest scam" of independent India and that the black money of several people was converted to white through the move.
"What did the country get, was black money found, was counterfeit currency recovered, did it stop naxalism and terrorism, instead the Indian economy suffered a loss of Rs 3 lakh crore," he claimed.
"Time has come for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take responsibility for this destruction and apologise...Time has come that the scam of notebandi is probed and those guilty are caught. The country will not forget, it remembers and is ready to hit back with the might of its votes," Surjewala said.
Sharma announced that the Congress will hold a nationwide protest on Friday to mark the second anniversary of demonetisation.
In his remarks, he slammed the government for the November 8, 2016 move, alleging it was an "arbitrary and wreckless decision of a prime minister which led to economic disaster, misery, pain, deaths of a large number of our citizens, loss of crores and crores of jobs, hurting the poor, hurting the farmers, hurting the daily wage earners, industrial labourers and housewives."
He said Prime Minister Modi gave four reasons for demonetisation - targeting black money, corruption, terror financing and counterfeit currency.
All the four reasons given by the prime minister for demonetisation had proven to be false, he said, adding that 99.3 per cent of the money has been returned to the RBI.
"The prime minister remains arrogant, he is in denial, he shall not apologise, the only thing which can happen, which will happen, is that the people will punish him," he asserted.
He said BJP must know time has come for accountability.
Sharma also alleged that all those who were caught with the newly-printed 2000-rupee notes in crores following demonetisation happened to be those associated with the BJP.
"My direct charge is that it (demonetisation) was also a big money laundering project. BJP's key people were privy to it, the Cabinet was not, and the RBI was not," he said.
He said the Congress sympathises with the RBI as they were forced into it. "My words should not be misunderstood. Prime Minister is less than literate in economics. He is less knowledgable and less literate in history. So, he makes his own history, he makes his own economics.
"And he thinks he is wiser than (John Maynard) Keynes, when it comes to economics. That is why... no prime minister, in saner moments, would take action that this prime minister has done," he said.
The Congress also released videos and a documentary on the "ill-affects" of demonetisation. Sharma claimed that on an average, 11 crore people were standing in queues each day outside banks and "begging" for their money.
"143 died in that process. Government was confused, clueless and incompetent," he charged. Sharma also hit back at Jaitley and the BJP for asking questions to the Congress, saying the BJP still "has the audacity" to ask questions and call demonetisation an "anti-corruption" move.
Rebutting Jaitley's assertion that the move has increased the tax base, Sharma said with the seventh pay commission, more people have come into the tax slabs.
"FM should do his homework. If they have such good management of the economy then why are they trying to plunder the RBI, why is the rupee worst performing currency," he said.
Sharma also accused the government of manipulating economic figures to show a bright picture of the economy.