NEW DELHI: A week has passed since winter session of Parliament began and the clamour over demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes continued unabated on Tuesday. The opposition parties were united in attacking the Prime Minister for not addressing the subject in Parliament. “He can speak on television at a pop concert, but not to Parliament,” said Rahul Gandhi, taking a dig at Modi’s video address at the Coldplay concert in Mumbai. On a serious note, senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said his party was considering a contempt notice against the Prime Minister for refusing to be answerable to Parliament.
Even as the legislative body of the country was denied an answer, the Prime Minister had a message for the public and his party. “This is not the end, but the beginning of a long, deep and constant battle against black money,” he claimed at the BJP parliamentary party meeting, while also claiming that people in public life - read opposition - were supporting corruption. The party passed a resolution, endorsing demonetisation as a ‘great crusade’ by Modi. The party leaders also claimed that its victory in the bypolls indicated peoples’ support. Reaching out to the masses, Modi asked people to rate his demonetisation initiative in a survey made available on the Narendra Modi app. Despite it not being an official feedback mechanism, the Prime Minister’s survey completely shuts its ears to anyone without a smartphone a.k.a the rural India. A study conducted by the Pew Research Centre in February this year had estimated that only 17 per cent of all Indians owned a smartphone.
The number of people who installed and used apps being even less. Even for the privileged few who get to take the survey, most questions are designed in such a way that it tackles one’s moral position on black money rather than addressing the consequences of demonetisation. For instance, the first two questions were redundant as the answers were obvious. Further, another question soliciting opinions if the move would reduce prices had no option to disagree.
This isn’t the only instance during the demonetisation drive when rural India was forgotten. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the focus of the government would now be on making new currency available in rural areas. The announcement, which comes 15 days after the currency ban began, is too late to control the damage inflicted, say experts. An assessment by the international consulting firm Deloitte predicted the damage caused to 482 million workers in the informal economy, primarily in rural areas, to last at least till the next quarter.