Ahmedabad: Describing the BJP-led government’s demonetisation exercise as a reckless step, former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday repeated his statement made in the Rajya Sabha a year ago that scrapping higher value currency notes was organised loot and legalised plunder.
None its objectives were achieved, Singh said during an interactive session on the current state of the economy with businesspersons and traders in Ahmedabad.
“Demonetisation was organised loot and legalised plunder,” he said during his visit to poll-bound Gujarat. “Contrary to belief, demonetisation was not a case of a “good idea, bad execution”. It was a fundamentally flawed idea.”
He said that time for politicking over demonetisation is over now. Economics should take precedence over politics. The former prime minister expressed his concern over the “creeping culture of erosion of institutions & their credibility.”
The former prime minister also criticised the Centre’s ambitious Ahmedabad- Mumbai bullet train project and dubbed it an exercise in vanity.
Comparing the escalating rise in India’s imports from China, Singh said the country’s import in first half of 2016-17 was worth Rs 1.96 lakh crore, whereas in 2017-18 it increased to Rs 2.41 lakh crore. He blamed demonetisation for the increased imports from China. The Congress leader also cited both demonetisation and GST as the main cause behind the unprecedented growth of imports, which rose by 23 per cent in a year.
Hitting out at the government over the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax, Singh said compliance requirements under GST had become a nightmare for small businesses.
Manmohan Singh criticised the government for an attitude “of suspecting everyone to be a thief or anti-national,” and said, “low-level rhetoric is damaging to democratic discourse. While denigrating the past the Prime Minister is also exaggerating what he will do in future”. He wondered if raising questions about bullet trains made one anti-development or questioning GST or demonetisation made one a tax evader.
Singh’s visit comes a day before Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi is likely to tour Surat on the anniversary of the governmen’s announcement of the demonetisation exercise.
Opposition parties are observing ‘black day’ on Wednesday.