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6 Dec 2016

ATM home truth in august House - Business activity index shows sharp contraction

TT, New Delhi, Dec. 5: A non-functional ATM outside the Central Hall at Parliament House provided fresh ammunition to the Opposition this morning to highlight the cash crisis wracking the country.
"When the ATM machine right here is not working, you can well imagine what the situation will be like outside," the leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said.
Opposition members today focused on ordinary people's hassles in accessing their own money, although they also demanded the Prime Minister's presence and an apology from him for suggesting the critics of the demonetisation's shoddy implementation had black money to hide.
Azad's reference to the ATM found resonance across Parliament complex, which is home to four ATM machines and one bank branch between the main building, library and annexe. Of the four ATMs, the one near the Central Hall had been the most reliable since the session began.
Adding to the woes of the employees and the MPs was the absence of low-denomination notes in the bank branch, which had only 2,000-rupee notes. The MPs anticipate a further strain from tomorrow, which is payday for many private companies.
Junior finance minister Arjun Meghwal, however, was hopeful that the situation would ease, saying more 500-rupee notes were being pumped into the banks.
As the problems with the cash flow continued, the Opposition stuck to its guns today belying the hopes over the weekend of a thaw.
In the morning, 15 Opposition parties decided that the situation outside warranted keeping the guns trained on the government for two more days.
When the government started a discussion in the Lok Sabha on demonetisation, the Opposition tried to drown it in protest, prompting scornful rejoinders from two ministers.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the situation had become one of "competitive obstructionism between the Congress and the Trinamul which is holding up the debate in Parliament".
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar later described the stand-off as "omnibus obstruction that is not only irresponsible but mindless also".
He sought to suggest that the Opposition was divided by picking out the Congress, Left parties, Trinamul and the Rashtriya Janata Dal as the most adamant in stalling proceedings.
With the winter session into its second half, the government cited the several pending bills, including those on disability rights and HIV/AIDS control, to argue for a restoration of order.
While the battle lines had been drawn on demonetisation even before the session began, Opposition members said the waters had been further muddied by the Prime Minister's statements.
Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant has now added another irritant by writing directly to the district collectors offering incentives for promoting digital payments.
CPM member Sitaram Yechury said that the Niti Aayog writing directly to the collectors raised questions about the country's federal structure.
"It cannot be PM to DM minus CM. Cooperative Federalism?" he tweeted.

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