Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today said the demonitisation exercise conducted by the government two years ago was "not just an ill-conceived and poorly executed economic policy with 'innocent intent', but a carefully planned, criminal financial scam". It was a "monumental blunder", and its spin doctors including "our incompetent finance minister" now have the "unenviable task of defending an indefensible, criminal policy," Mr Gandhi said in a statement.
Mr Gandhi's statement was part of a concerted attack on the government on the second anniversary of the notes ban, which came as a surprise announcement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the evening. The move, the Prime Minister said, was meant to flush out black money and put a stop to counterfeits that fund terrorism.
The days that followed saw miles-long queues at the ATMs. Many elderly and ailing people collapsed while standing in queue and several of them died. The opposition had claimed the number of deaths had crossed 100 and accused the government on the floor of the Rajya Sabha of refusing to mourn the deaths.
Today, Mr Gandhi said, "More than a hundred and twenty Indians died in those queues. We must never forget them. Millions of small and medium businesses were smashed and the entire informal sector devastated".
There is no official corroboration of this figure of deaths in bank queues.
Earlier today, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh -- a noted economist and the architect of liberalization of the economy -- said the "scars" of demonetization were only getting "more visible with time".
"Beyond the steep drop in headline GDP growth numbers after demonetisation, the deeper ramifications of notebandi are still unraveling. Small and medium businesses that are the cornerstone of India's economy are yet to recover from the demonetisation shock," the former Prime Minister said.
Mr Gandhi said the demonetisation failed to have the desired results. "From a war against counterfeit currency and terrorism, to permanently removing the scourge of black money; from increasing savings to forcing a shift to digital transactions; not a single stated objective of the government's has been met," he said.
In a strong defence posted on Facebook earlier today, Union minister Arun Jaitley had called the notes ban a "key step in a chain of important decisions taken by the government to formalize the economy". The cash ban had also made it difficult to evade taxes, pushed digital transactions and helped improve tax collection, he said.
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