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12 Dec 2016

Cash leak tells on PM pitch - Modi issues warning as note racketeers make hay

Stacks of currency notes allegedly found at a law firm in Greater Kailash-I in New Delhi on Saturday night. The value of the cash was put at Rs 13.65 crore, of which at least Rs 2.61 crore was in the new Rs 2,000 currency notes. According to income-tax department sources, a lawyer associated with the firm had recently declared more than Rs 125 crore in unaccounted income. (PTI picture)
Piyush Srivastava, TT, Lucknow, Dec. 11: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today vowed to crush black money hoarders, the renewed thrust coinciding with the daily discovery of stacks of new notes in places far removed from bank vaults while many law-abiding citizens return empty-handed from ATMs.
"I will not allow those who have exploited the poor to remain rich," Modi told a gathering of 50,000-odd in Bahraich, about 105km from Lucknow by air. He addressed the election rally over a mobile phone after poor visibility prevented his helicopter landing at the venue.
"The government is nabbing dishonest people every day. Those who have been stashing black money will soon be in the grip of the law," the Prime Minister added, describing his government as "of the poor and for the poor".
The pledge on cash hoarders comes at a time several BJP leaders have started expressing concern about what they feel is a let-up in the initial public support for demonetisation.
Image after image of new notes, far above the weekly withdrawal limit and piled so high that it would take years to collect such an amount lawfully, tumbling out of hiding places that have included a bathroom have brought under strain the Prime Minister's initial assurance that corruption would be tackled once the new currency regime kicked in.
Since most of the seizures have included a considerable amount of new notes whose supply to the public is rationed, the connivance of a section of officials cannot be disputed.
The government has been saying that so many cases are being unearthed because of vigilant law enforcement. But an impression has gained ground that the government did not put in place processes to plug the leak in its haste to enforce demonetisation.
The upshot has been that those willing to bend the law appear to have an endless supply of scarce notes while most of the others have to do with rationed cash, that too after long waits in queues.
It is against this backdrop that the Prime Minister is trying to change the perception by targeting the cash hoarders.
Modi was scheduled to address the " parivartan rally" at 2pm. But his helicopter hovered over the ground for a while and returned to Lucknow, from where the Prime Minister left for Delhi. In between, he addressed the crowd in Biswariya village, 3km from Bahraich town, through a mobile call at 3.15pm.
Uttar Pradesh BJP chief K.P. Maurya, who was on the dais, put his cellphone on the speaker mode and placed it before the microphone to allow the Prime Minister's voice to carry across the ground. Although Modi's speeches usually last about an hour, he wound up his address today in 15 minutes.
Several rally participants said the Prime Minister's voice was breaking up because of the poor audio quality.
Parliament logjam
Modi hit out at the BJP's political rivals for criticising his demonetisation drive and disrupting Parliament.
"I know that the common man is facing problems because of demonetisation. But I cannot understand why the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party and the Congress are opposing it, why Mayawati and Mulayam (Singh Yadav) are worried," he said. "The people understand this very well. So I don't want to say much about it."
Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati later hit back at Modi.

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