Na­tion­wide rally against In­dia cash ban


KOLKATA: Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple joined na­tion­wide protests Mon­day against In­dia’s ban on high­value ban­knotes, which or­ga­niz­ers say has caused a “fi­nan­cial emer­gency” in a coun­try that op­er­ates al­most en­tirely on cash.

In­dia is still reel­ing from Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s shock de­ci­sion nearly three weeks ago to pull 86 per­cent of the cur­rency from cir­cu­la­tion overnight, trig­ger­ing a chronic short­age of cash.

Many or­di­nary In­di­ans say they sup­port the scheme if it forces the rich to pay their taxes by mak­ing them bank un­de­clared in­come, but econ­o­mists have warned it could hit growth hard.

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

Pro­tester Su­mit Sen said he had been forced to close his gro­cery shop af­ter busi­ness slowed to a trickle.

“Run­ning my gro­cery shop be­came im­pos­si­ble,” the 45-year-old told AFP, urg­ing the govern­ment to re­verse the move.

An es­ti­mated 6,000 ral­lied in Mumbai, In­dia’s western com­mer­cial hub, po­lice said.

“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 high­value cur­rency was done with­out any au­thor­ity and leg­is­la­tion and is clearly il­le­gal.”

Own­ers of the banned 500 and 1,000 ru­pee ($7.30, $14.60) 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.

For­mer Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh, a re­spected econ­o­mist, said last week it would shave at least two per­cent­age points off growth, which topped seven per­cent in the first half of the fi­nan­cial year.

In­dian sup­port­ers of the Youth Congress and mem­bers of the Na­tional Stu­dents’ Union of In­dia (NSUI) take part in a rally against de­mon­e­ti­za­tion in Ahmed­abad on Mon­day. (AFP)

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