By Amit Cowper
Ahmedabad, Nov 7 (IANS) Former Prime Minister and leading economist, Manmohan Singh on Tuesday lashed out at the Narendra Modi-led NDA government over the “twin blow” of demonetisation and GST, which he termed a “complete disaster” for the economy and said that winds of change are blowing in Gujarat and time has come for Gujaratis to repose faith in the Congress party.
Reiterating his earlier statement when he termed demonetization an economic blunder, Manmohan Singh said that due to the effects of demonetization and the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Chinese imports have grown by a whopping 23 per cent in just one year.
In his speech campaign for the Congress party at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Memorial auditorium, Singh hit out at the NDA government for the two drastic steps taken said that November 8 was a ‘Black Day’ for the economy and democracy of the country.
“The cash in circulation after one year is close to 90 per cent of previous levels. The fact that more than 99 per cent of the demonetized currency came back into the system has punctured the government’s claims of its success.”
Addressing more than a thousand from the businessmen and traders fraternity, Singh said, “The pain of the informal sector is inadequately captured in the GDP calculations, as the 5.7 per cent under the new calculation is bound to be a gross underestimate. What is even more tragic is that none of the lessons from this monumental blunder has been learnt by the government.”
“Instead of providing relief to the poor and the marginalized farmers, traders and small and medium businesses as I had requested in the Parliament, who suffered the brunt of demonetization, the government chose to inflict on them a badly designed and hastily implemented GST.”
According to the former Prime Minister, “this twin blow was a complete disaster for our economy, breaking the back of small and medium business in India”.
“India’s imports from China stood at Rs 1.96 lakh crore in the first half of 2016-17. During the same period in 2017-18, it increased to Rs 2.41 lakh crore, an unprecedented increase of 23 per cent in imports, attributed mainly to demonetization and GST.”
“What is terrible for the country is that, the fear of tax terrorism has eroded confidence of businesses to invest. The growth in private investment is at a 25-year low. Did the Prime Minister stop to consider the wisdom of Mahatma when asking the Governor to sign on the dotted line of demonetization or while implementing GST in haste? Did he think about the impact on those who toil in informal sector whose earnings dried up because of shortage of cash? Did he think about the millions of people who lost jobs and had to return to their villages in despair? If the Prime Minister had paid attention to the Mahatma’s talisman, the poor of India would not have to suffer the way they did,” said Singh.
On the GST front, he said, “When undertaking the endeavour of One Nation, One Tax, if the Prime Minister had taken inspiration from the resolve and attention to detail of Sardar Patel, the outcome would have been different. Bravado and drama are poor substitutes for courage with conviction and the ability to execute well.”
“Today, one year after demonetization, large sections of the country feel that they have been taken for a ride by their government. Their trust has been betrayed,” said Manmohan Singh.
The former Prime Minister even criticized the ‘Bullet Train’ project. He said, “While our existing passenger rail network is lanquishing and needs a dire infusion of funds to improve both safety and speed, the ‘Bullet Train’ project was launched with much fanfare, sadly an exercise in vanity and which will neither benefit the 6.5 crore Gujaratis nor the nation. The past year saw the highest number of deaths due to derailment accidents in more than a decade, but the government’s priorities are misplaced.”
“Did the Prime Minister consider the alternative of introducing high speed rail network across India and upgrade the existing infrastructure? Instead of the Bullet Train project, the UPA government had requested the Japanese to fund the ‘Dedicated Freight Corridor’ and signed the deal in 2005. The UPA project will create a multiplier effect on the economy with upgradation of transportation technology, increase productivity and reduction in unit transportation costs,” Singh added.
Questioning the rationale behind the anti-nationalistic slur thrown on those who question Narendra Modi and the NDA, Singh asked, “By questioning the Bullet Train, does one become anti-development. By questioning the outcome of demonetization and GST, does one become a tax evader? Does questioning the drop in GDP make one an anti-national?”
“My friends, questions must be asked again and again on the soundness of policy and the lack of transparency,” he said.
Coming to the issues faced by Gujarat state, which has been dubbed as the model state in the country by the BJP, Singh said, “While across India, the title deeds to the forest dwellers and tribal have been disposed of at the rate of 87 per cent, Gujarat lagged behind with a poor 44 per cent. On every social indicator like infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, female literacy, Gujarat has fallen behind the best performing states like Himachal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka.”
On the numerous agitations among the youth of different sections of society in Gujarat, Singh said, “The winds of change are blowing in Gujarat. The agitations are an indication of the deep dissatisfaction with the performance of successive BJP governments in Gujarat. The Congress will ensure the voice of every Gujarati, regardless of caste, creed, gender or class will be heard.”
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