Urjit Patel, the current Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor, will face a line of questioning in parliament today over his role in suggesting and implementing the ban on Rs.500 and Rs.1,000 currency notes, and the disastrous effects it has had on the economy and peoples’ lives.
The demonetization was carried out swiftly and without any prior preparation, as the country was scrambling to gain its footing after the destabilizing decision. There were no valid notes in over 90% of the ATMs, country-wide. Banks were totally unprepared to handle the massive surge of deposits, exchanges, etc. and had to keep up with notifications and rules that changed daily. Worst of all, people died not only of starvation because they could not afford food with their newly de-recognized notes but also because of standing in line and waiting for their turn.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Urjit Patel had actively avoided sessions of parliament after the demonetization.
There is still no count of how many notes were actually printed at the presses, and reports have already started flooding in regarding misprints, possible counterfeit notes of the new denominations, etc. The parliament and opposition has finally managed to hold a session regarding the demonetization, and the discussion and round of questioning will hope to address issues such as:
- Has the RBIs autonomy been compromised as a result of this momentous decision that was taken without due parliamentary process?
- Was the demonetization even legal, in view of the fact that it violated Indian citizens’ rights over money that was legally their own?
- Who are the parties involved in pushing the cashless economy agenda?
- Is going entirely cashless a viable option for an economy as large, diverse, and imbalanced as the Indian economy when major structured economies like US, UK, Japan, Singapore, etc. are not completely cashless yet?
- Is the banking system equipped to handle the note ban?
- Are there enough valid currency notes in circulation to meet the demands of the people?
- How many notes of Rs.500 and Rs.2,000 have actually been printed at the registered presses?
- Will the government be paying any compensation to the 100+ people that lost their lives as a direct effect of the demonetization?
- What was the extent of the impact of the note ban on various sectors?
- What is the game plan for the future, considering the slowdown in economic growth?
- Why were other options not explored for dealing with counterfeit currency notes?
The parliament’s standing committee will ask these questions of Mr. Urjit Patel today, almost 3 months after the event.
The round of questioning will also focus on citizens’ rights.