NEW DELHI: On a day when the Finance Minister, in a written reply, informed the Lok Sabha that the government has no official estimation of the unaccounted wealth in the country, the Prime Minister briefed his parliamentary party leaders on the need to push digitisation among the public.
“There is no official estimation of the amount of black money either before or after the government’s decision of November 8,” he said in a written reply to the Lok Sabha. Critics slammed Jaitley’s response, asking how the government could have embarked on the demonetisation drive, which inconvenienced millions of people, without even having an estimate of the amount of black money in the country.
“The decision to declare Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes as invalid is an important step in the government’s fight against black money but is not the final destination,” he said, telling his party leaders that it was their primary responsibility to push digital transactions. “We do not think in parts. There is a full scale design. It is only that we show our cards gradually,” he said, reiterating that people’s woes will gradually begin to ease out after 50 days since demonetisation was announced. With the 50-day period that he had sought to end the pain of cash crunch inching towards the end, Modi evidently seems to be under pressure to deliver.
Meanwhile, his senior officials have been constantly pushing the deadline before the situation could ease. While the Economic Affairs Secretary said on Thursday that the situation would ease by first week of January, the NITI Aayog CEO said on Friday that the pain could continue till mid January. Interestingly, while Doordarshan was supposed to cover the Prime Minister’s address to the BJP parliamentary party, inviting strong comments from the opposition, it did not do so.
Modi warned that the focus would now shift to benami transactions in his fight against black money. The Prime Minister also slammed the Congress, saying both Manmohan Singh and Indira Gandhi had failed to take steps to weed out black money.
The government also announced on Friday that the new window to disclose black money, which was launched earlier this month, would open on Saturday and would continue till March 31. Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana scheme, people can legalise their unaccounted money by paying a 50 per cent tax. Announcing the launch, Revenue Secretary Hasmuk Adhia warned the government would “join all the dots” to track down defaulters.