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Interview With K C Venugopal

Interview With K C Venugopal

Opposition parties have vociferously and relentlessly been criticizing the Modi government for scrapping   Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. Parliament has not been functioning for the last two weeks and only one week is left before the winter session comes to an end. As the stalemate continues, the Opposition observed 'Black Day' in Parliament on December 8, a month after PM Narendra Modi announced demonetization.

Anju Grover spoke to Congress Member of Parliament K C Venugopal on logjam in Parliament, opposition’s responsibility and ofcourse strategy on demonetization.

IC: The deadlock over demonetisation has led to wastage of the winter session so far and considering that just one more week is left for the session to wrap up. Your comment.

  K C Venugopal : It is very unfortunate that the deadlock over demonetisation has led to the wash out of the winter session so far. We are very much concerned about that. We always wanted a fair discussion in the house to express our concerns regarding the hardships and sufferings of common citizens after the announcement. The intention behind demonetization to curb black money was welcomed by us but, the exercise flopped in due course of time. We were eager to highlight sufferings and hardships of the people in the House. But it didn’t happen. Prime Minister should have made a suo moto statement in the house regarding the decision. We demanded a discussion under rule 56 by suspending question hour. The adjournment motions in this regard were rejected everyday and Government was not ready to listen to the opposition parties. 

IC: The government has accused the opposition of running away from discussion in the house. It has challenged the opposition saying it does not "have courage" to begin discussion on demonetization. Why are you doing this?

It is the government that is running away from the discussion. From day one, it was not ready to discuss demonetization under rule 56 as there will be a motion of censure on the Government’s decision if discussion happens under this rule. Since it was not ready for a discussion under this rule, we demanded that at least the discussion should happen under rule 186, which also allows voting, to make the Government accountable on the decision. PM came to the house only during question hour that too rarely. It is treasury bench which is running away from the discussion. When Rahul Gandhi on Friday stood up to speak in the house, it was ruling party members who started disrupting the proceedings. We want to expose the ‘fatal mis-management’ of the demonetisation policy that has helped black money hoarders only and caused hardship to the people. 

IC: In Lok Sabha , you do not have the numbers so what is the point for asking for discussion with voting?

The demonetisation has pushed the country into a financial chaos. Daily wage earners, students, merchants, fishermen and others are suffering due to poor planning. ATMs are going cashless, banks are going cashless. In rural areas, bank facilities are not there and people are suffering. We do not want a mere discussion for the sake of argument and counter-argument. 

IC: What is your reaction to Mr L K Advani’s remarks when he openly criticised Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan for failing to end the stalemate in the Parlimanent?

The remarks made by Mr Advani are a blow to the Government’s adamant attitude. He expressed his concerns over Government’s failure in managing floor of the House. 

IC: Is it not your responsibility to allow the house to function?

We concede that the opposition parties have a decisive role to allow the house to function. But when the opposition parties demand answers from the government and disruptions happen, then the government should take initiative to restore normalcy in the house. It is government’s duty to take the opposition into confidence. This government has completely failed in doing its job.

IC: Why is opposition not united on demonetization?

All opposition parties are united on demonetization. Every morning, we meet in Parliament to work out floor strategy. Around 14 opposition parties are participating in these meetings. We are united. 

IC: What is your objection to the money spent by Transport minister Nitin Gadkari on his daughter’s marriage and mining baron Janardhan Reddy ‘s daughter’s wedding?

The government is boasting about the “surgical strikes” on the black money hoarders, but they have not been touched. When common people are dying while standing in queues, lavish marriages are happenings. The suicide note of  a driver of the Special Land Acquisition Officer of Bengaluru says that Mr. Reddy converted Rs. 25 crore in old notes into new currency ahead of his daughter’s lavish wedding. I am against such kind of lavish spending. 

IC: What is wrong if the government is promoting to go cashless and adopt e-wallets?

It has been proved that it is not a viable solution to check black money. Black money holders are finding ways to escape. As per available information, over 80% banned notes have already come back to the banks, more will be added as there is enough time. Demonetisation has not put an end to black money hoarding and fake currencies. Every day, we hear stories about unaccounted money or fake currencies of new notes being caught.

India is pre-dominantly a cash-economy. You cannot make a country like India cashless overnight, where digital literacy and banking facilities are poor. Lakhs of people have no access to the bank facility. It is not clear if banks will charge for e-transaction in future despite current relaxations. We must remember that the same BJP had even opposed Aadhar card system when it was introduced in the country.    

IC: Elections in UP and Punjab are likely to be held soon.  Do you think this decision was political in nature?

In my view, Prime Minister was completely ill advised on this issue. One can also suspect a political intention behind the move. PM must have thought of demonetizing opposition parties through demonetisation. 

IC: The government said that this would bring money back into the banking system as well as yield money for other welfare schemes, create employment and alleviate poverty. Your comment.

That’s what the Government told after demonetization but it did not happen. Unfortunately, no home work was done to deal with the situation. Even now the government does not know what will happen. RBI Governor admitted that note ban drive will hit the country’s GDP. RBI too is clueless on when note crisis would end. It has kept the repo rate unchanged in its monetary policy statement. The decision has undoubtedly hit the industrial production and day to day business in the country. 

IC: PM Modi had asked for 50 days period before normalcy returns. Do you foresee things becoming better in the country in 50 days? 

The situation is worsening day by day. Hardship of the people is escalating day by day. Even the government is not sure of its own deadline. Demonetisation will have a long lasting impact on the economy.

(Published on 12nd December 2016, Volume XXVIII, Issue 50)#