Tens of thou­sands protest In­dia cash ban

> Chief min­is­ter warns of ‘ri­ots and epi­demics’

The Sun (Malaysia) - - NEWS WITHOUT BORDERS -

NEW DELHI: Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple turned out yes­ter­day for na­tion­wide protests against In­dia’s con­tro­ver­sial ban on high-value ban­knotes, which op­po­si­tion party or­gan­is­ers say has caused a “fi­nan­cial emer­gency”.

In­dia is still reel­ing from Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s shock de­ci­sion nearly three weeks ago to pull 86% of the cur­rency from cir­cu­la­tion overnight, trig­ger­ing a chronic short­age of notes in an econ­omy that op­er­ates al­most en­tirely on cash.

Around 25,000 peo­ple took to the streets of the east­ern city of Kolkata, cap­i­tal of West Ben­gal state, whose left­wing Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Ban­er­jee has warned of “ri­ots and epi­demics” if the ban con­tin­ues.

An es­ti­mated 6,000 more turned out to protest in Mumbai, In­dia’s western com­mer­cial hub, po­lice said.

But many or­di­nary In­di­ans say they sup­port the scheme if it forces the rich to pay their taxes by mak­ing them bank un­de­clared in­come.

Only a hand­ful of states ob­served a call for a na­tion­wide protest strike.

“We are protest­ing against the un­de­clared fi­nan­cial emer­gency im­posed by the govern­ment and the hard­ships peo­ple across the coun­try are fac­ing be­cause of this il­le­gal de­ci­sion,” said Man­ish Ti­wari of the op­po­si­tion Congress party.

“The de­ci­sion to de­mon­e­tise high-value cur­rency was done with­out any au­thor­ity and leg­is­la­tion and is clearly il­le­gal.”

Own­ers of the banned 500 and 1,000 ru­pee (RM33 and RM65) notes have un­til the end of the year to de­posit them in a bank, and can only di­rectly ex­change a small num­ber for new cur­rency.

But au­thor­i­ties have struggled to print enough new notes to meet de­mand and econ­o­mists say the en­su­ing cash crunch will hit growth.

“I do not dis­agree with the ob­jec­tives but it is a mon­u­men­tal case of mis­man­age­ment,” for­mer prime min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh told par­lia­ment.

“The way de­mon­eti­sa­tion has been im­ple­mented, it will hurt agri­cul­tural growth and all those peo­ple work­ing in the in­for­mal sec­tor.”

Over 90% of trans­ac­tions in In­dia are con­ducted in cash and many of the poor­est have no ac­cess to bank­ing.

Many have been left with­out enough cash to buy food or daily es­sen­tials, while farm­ers have been un­able to buy seeds and small traders say busi­ness has fallen off a cliff. – AFP

Peo­ple gather in cen­tral Delhi for a protest against the cash ban yes­ter­day.

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