‘Nothing wrong in PAC calling PM over note ban’
THE MOVE TO INVALIDATE HIGH-VALUE CURRENCY HAS PLUNGED THE ENTIRE COUNTRY INTO A FINANCIAL QUAGMIRE. PEOPLE HAVE LOST THEIR JOBS (SOME EVEN THEIR LIVES) AND MOST ARE OUT OF POCKET”
Amid political battlelines being drawn between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress over demonetisation, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Chairman K V THOMAS tells Amit Agnihotri the parliamentary panel may call Prime Minister Narendra Modi to seek his views. Edited excerpts:
Can the PAC call the Prime Minister over demonetisation?
There is nothing wrong in the PAC calling the PM. The panel has called the Reserve Bank of India governor and finance ministry officials on January 20 to give a brief on the impact of demonetisation. If the panel decides on calling the PM, and the Lok Sabha Speaker grants permission, it can be done.
But, is there a precedent?
During the PAC hearings on the allocation of 2G spectrum issue, the BJP member Murli Manohar Joshi had wanted the then PM Manmohan Singh to be summoned. Earlier in 1966, the PAC had called then Heavy Industries Minister C Subramaniam. In 1992, whilst hearing the Harshad Mehta securities scam, the panel had called then Finance Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shankarrao Chavan.
But, how would calling the PM help?
Not only is he the first among equals, he made the announcement to invalidate high-value currency notes. He is the best man to explain its impact.
Are you also planning to call former Union ministers?
We may call Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in their capacity as financial experts.
Has the BJP member Nishikant Dubey urged you to withdraw your comment on the PM?
I have not received any communication from him.
But the BJP members in the PAC are miffed, and may raise the issue when the panel meets on January 13.
The panel has been working collectively and has so far produced 75 reports. I get cooperation from all members across party lines.
You’ve been a Union food minister yourself. Is a cashless economy the way forward?
We are an agrarian economy that runs on cash. I am also not sure about the safety and security of digital payment systems and/or the technology that supports the same. Do we have enough ATMs to support the government’s cashless agenda?
You are also a lawmaker in the Lower House of Parliament as member of the Congress party, which has vehemently opposed demonetisation.
I think the PM took the decision without consulting the financial experts. Maybe this was done to fulfil his political ambition. But the move instead has plunged the entire country into a financial quagmire; people have lost their jobs (some even their lives) and most are out of pocket.