Blending emotion with aggression, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today mounted a counteroffensive against the opposition over demonetisation of high-value currency notes, promising more anti-graft measures in future “even if I am burned alive”.
Taking the opposition, particularly Congress, head on for targeting his government over demonetisation, Modi said those involved in mega scams were now standing in queues to exchange Rs 4000.
“They thought if they pull my hair, I will stop and do nothing. I will not be cowed down. I will not stop doing these things, even if you burn me alive,” Modi said addressing a function in Panaji, turning emotional and aggressive in turn.
Making an emotional but combative speech, he said he was ready to face the consequences of his moves as certain forces were “up against me” because their “70 years of loot” was in trouble as a result of demonetisation.
“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,” Modi said.
His lips trembled and there were long pauses when, fighting back tears, he said, “My dear countrymen, I gave up everything…my home, my family. I gave up everything I had for this country.”
Under unrelenting opposition attack over demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes and the misery it has brought for the common people, Modi said,”This government does not want to bother honest people but doesn’t want to spare the dishonest. Bear with me for 50 days. Has India been looted or not? ….. I am not going to stop at this. I will expose the history of corruption of 70 years since Independence.”
The Prime Minister declared the war against corruption will not end with the current demonetisation exercise and that he would now target those owning benami property.
“This (demonetisation) is not an end. I have more projects in mind to make India corruption-free. …. We will take action against ‘benami’ property. This is 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 addressing functions in Panaji, Belagavi in Karnataka and Baramati in Maharashtra.
Apparently tartgeting Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, one of the most vocal critics of his demonetisation exercise who vented his anger against the government action after exchanging money at a bank recently, Modi said,”Those who were involved in the coal scam, 2G scam and other scams, now have to stand in queues to exchange Rs 4000.”
“When Congress banned 25 paise, did we say anything? You could dare to stop only 25 paise, that’s what your power was limited to. But you did not make higher denomination currency notes illegal. … We did it. People have chosen a government and they expect so much from it,” he said.
Reaching out to the harried people, Modi said,”if you find anything wrong with my intentions or my actions, hang me in public. I promise you I will give you the India which you desired. If someone faces problem, I also feel the pain. I understand their problem but this is only for 50 days and after 50 days we succeed in this cleansing.”
He said the people had voted against corruption in 2014 when they elected him to lead the country.
“I am doing what I was asked to do by the people of this country. This had become clear from the very first meeting of my Cabinet when I formed the SIT (on blackmoney). We never kept the people in dark.”
“Soon after assuming power, a Supreme Court monitored Special Investigation Team was formed to investigate the black money parked outside the country. Previous governments neglected this. Did I hide anything? We took a key step to help the honest citizens defeat the menace of corruption.
“We collected Rs 67,000 crore under amnesty scheme. But in the last two years, through raids, surveys and declarations, the government has collected Rs 1,25,000 crore in its exchequer … I kept on administering small doses of medicine to improve the economic situation of the country since I came to power,” Modi said, referring to the Jan Dhan scheme aimed at financial inclusion.
Talking about efforts that preceded the demonetisation, the Prime Minister said it was “a secret operation I started 10 months back and had formed a small team.
“The secret operation was of course not the one like (Defence Minister Manohar) Parrikar had launched (surgical strike in PoK). We had to print new currency notes and take other steps in secret”, otherwise the corrupt would have found other ways to deal with the situation.
Stressing on the need to go cashless in transactions, he said, “There is talk about a cashless society and we should shift to plastic money. That’s why we have removed all taxes from debit and credit cards in the budget.”
He also asked to the people not to panic “by exchanging Rs 500 for Rs 300” and get the full value of their hard earned money.
“When common people are facing hardship, I too feel bad about it. Please don’t consider the decision (regarding demonetisation) as my arrogance. I do understand the problems that the countrymen are currently facing but this inconvenience and suffering will last only till December 30. Once the cleansing is over, not even a mosquito will be there,” he said, adding “there is pain due to demonetisation but more to gain.”
Speaking at an event in Pune, Modi sought people’s cooperation in his fight against the menace of black money.
Modi said enemies were using fake notes to destroy the nation. “Our enemies were printing more fake Indian currency than their own official currency. They were pushing these fake notes in our country, thereby strengthening outfits involved and terror and Naxal activities.”
The PM said after demonetisation, a false impression is being created that he will now tax income of farmers. “An illusion has been created that after demonetisation, farmers will deposit their money in form of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in their accounts, and this will be taxed. However, let me assure my farmer-brothers their deposits will not be taxed.”
“This country belongs to you, the money you have earned belongs to you, banks belong to you and even Modi belongs to you.”
Reminding the audience about demonetisation undertaken by the Janata Party Government in 1978, Modi said he is not the first PM to take such a decision.
“In 1978, the Moraraji Desai Government had stopped Rs 1000 note. At that time RBI had printed notes of Rs 1000 that were valued at Rs 144 crore. Of these, only Rs 65 crore was with public and the rest with banks.
“Today the value of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes stood at Rs 14 lakh crore and our enemies, anti-social elements, corrupt people are taking advantage of that,” he said adding, “If we do not root out the menace of black money now, future generations won’t be able to fulfil their dreams.”
After attending the International conference and Exhibition at Vasantdada Sugar Institute in Pune, Modi visited the Serum Institute of India and met its Chairman and Managing Director, Dr Cyrus Poonawala.
Modi had a look at various modern equipment used by the Adar Poonawala Clean City Movement, through which a project has been launched to clean the city.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Union minister Prakash Javadekar and Chief Minister Devendra Fadanvis were present.