The nation awaited Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address on the eve of New Year with suspense and drama being built around the event. The speech also assumed significance as this was probably the first time any Prime Minister was addressing the country on New Year’s Eve. But if one expected transparency about numbers that could justify the pain the country has been put through from November 8, it was missing from the PM speech. A lot has been written about the announcements regarding welfare for urban and rural housing, farmers, senior citizens and pregnant women. But here are 5 things we would have liked to hear from the Prime Minister.
Devoid of supporting facts and figures and an excess of welfare promises, it seemed to be an appeasing / damage control address to the poor, farmers, small scale industries, pregnant women and elderly who were severely affected by the serpentine queues in the banks.
So, what was missing in his speech?
- The whole exercise of demonetising Rs 15.44 lakh crore, 86% of the total currency in circulation was to flush out black money. Or so, the government wanted us to believe. Rs 4-5 lakh cr was expected to stay out of the banking system as black money hoarders were likely to find it difficult to deposit in the face of stringent RBI norms. But the government was in for a rude shock. The RBI’s last release on December 10 said that Rs 13 lakh cr has returned to the system. In the next 20 days, reports suggest that more than Rs 14 lakh crore could have come back as deposits.But if one expected Prime Minister Modi to be transparent and release those numbers in his New Year speech, there was disappointment.
- It was widely reported, some as sources attributed to finance ministry and other government ministries, that there will be a windfall to the poor in form of cash deposits to Jan Dhan accounts. While in his earlier speeches, he mentioned the success of Jan Dhan accounts and the soaring deposits, he chose to stay silent this time – a sign that the government has little to gain from the demonetisation exercise and hence cannot deposit any excess funds arising out of extinguishing legal tender.
- On November 8, PM Modi sought 50 days for demonetisation and said that the problems will ease post that. While queues have eased at bank branches, the crisis of liquidity continues. Though banks are now allowing withdrawals of Rs 4500 from ATMs, there was no word from the PM on how long it will take to bring liquidity back to pre-November 8 levels. ‘My effort is to take the banking system to normalcy as fast as possible in the New Year’ is all that Modi could manage to offer.Economists point out that the remonetisation of notes have not crossed even 50% of the total demonetised notes of Rs 15.44 lakh cr. That probably explains why the PM decided not to give any fresh deadline which he cannot meet.
- PM Modi called out to all political parties. “I urge all parties and leaders to move away from a “holier than thou approach,” to come together in prioritising transparency, and take firm steps to free politics of black money and corruption,” said Modi. One expected that in line with his bold image of taking tough decisions, he will announce that his party has decided to take active steps in declaring all sources of funding. This would include utilising technology and apps like PayTm to encourage more cashless donations. Political parties also avail of the legal loophole of declaring more donations in cash below Rs 20,000 and one expected the BJP under Modi to take proactive steps in transparency. But we are yet to hear that from the PM.Also, while he called out rogue banking employees for engaging with black money hoarders, there were no words of regret on several BJP workers being caught with large stash of cash. Read this, this and this.
- Finally, we did not hear the Prime Minister utter the word ‘Mitron’ in his speech.