[Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivering his statement to the media outside Parliament House, at the start of Winter Session of Parliament, in New Delhi on November 16, 2016.]
New Delhi: The opposition on Wednesday tried to corner the government in the Rajya Sabha over the demonetisation issue on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, accusing it of leaking the information of demonetisation beforehand to a select few and demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the matter.
However, the treasury benches stuck to their guns and asserted that there was no leak and that the move was a "war on corruption".
Speaking on the issue, Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma termed the move as a "Nadirshahi farman" (autocratic order).
Defending the government, Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the hardships faced by the people were "birth pangs" which will ultimately result in happy outcome.
Sharma, as also other opposition leaders including Ram Gopal Yadav, who was recently expelled from the Samajwadi Party, demanded a probe into the "selective leakage" of the demonetisation move.
"No ordinance was brought for demonetisation. This is a Nadirshahi farman...Which law gave this government the right to bar me from withdrawing my money from the bank," Anand Sharma said.
Congress leader Pramod Tiwari called the government "Kaliyug ka Bhasmasur" (referring to the mythological demon that could reduce to ashes everything it touched) - that would ultimately destroy itself.
"No civilised country has done this (demonetisation) in recent times. Only four people have done this. The first three are Muamar Gaddafi of Libya, Mussolini of Italy and Hitler of Germany. The fourth is our Prime Minister Narendra Modi," Tiwari said as treasury benches erupted in protest.
Tiwari also reiterated the opposition demand of a JPC probe into the matter.
Rejecting the government's argument that the November 8 demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will end the menace of fake currency in India, Ram Gopal Yadav said: "Do you think our enemy countries will wait for two months before they forge new currency notes? They may have already started it."
Yadav also raised the issue of "selective leak" about the new currency, referring to a tweet by Punjab Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sanjeev Kamboj wherein the latter shared a picture of the new Rs 2,000 note on November 6 -- two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the demonetisation.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi by comparing him to French Queen Marie Antoinette.
"It reminds me of Marie Antoinette who during the French Revolution said if they (people) don't find bread, why don't they eat cakes. Now, we have Modi Antoinette who says: 'If you don't have paper, use plastic'."
"What is the coverage of your plastic money? Only 2.6 crore of the 130 crore Indians have credit cards. Will that run our economy? More than 80 per cent of our economy is in cash," said Yechury.
As the Left leader raised the issue of "writing off" of Rs 7,000 crore worth of corporate loans by turning them into Non Performing Assets (NPA) by the State Bank of India, Leader of the House and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley intervened saying by turning loans to NPAs does not mean that the loan seizes to exist.
"The bank would still pursue that loan. NPA does not mean writing it off. Liability to pay and right to recover still remains," Jaitley said.
BSP chief Mayawati questioned the government's preparedness for the demonetisation of high-value bank notes, accusing it of spending the last 10 months on settling the black money of its people.
"The government has said that they spent 10 months preparing for this decision. Ten months was a long time to prepare. If they were serious about it, they would have prepared well for all the problems that people are facing today," she said.
Naidu however said that the demonetisation move of the government is a "war on corruption and black money" and called it a 'mahayajna'.
Giving assurance to the people, Naidu said: "If your money is valid, it won't become invalid."
On the question of hardships being faced by people to withdraw money from the banks, Naidu said, "These are birth pangs. Just as a woman undergoes severe labour pain before giving birth and her pain turns into joy when the baby is born, this process will lead to happy outcome for the country," he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for healthy debates on various issues, including the GST, during the winter session of Parliament.
"I am expecting a very healthy and useful debate about issues including the GST in this session of the parliament," he said.
The Prime Minister also hoped that parties will present their views on various issues to be debated. "We will talk about people's aspirations."
The Lok Sabha was adjourned after obituary references.