Bihar IT Minister lashes out at Union Minister in public over demonetization

New Delhi: In what can be described as a major embarrassment to the Centre, Congress state president and Bihar’s IT Minister Ashok Choudhary ripped apart Union Minister Radha Mohan Singh over the flaming issue of demonetisation, when the latter was in Patna to attend the ‘Digi Dhan Mela’.

At a public gathering, shortly after the Union Agriculture and Farmer Welfare Minister concluded his speech listing out government’s achievements in countering black money and promoting digital literacy in the state, Choudhary condemned the Centre stating that since November 8th, people have only being facing hardships.

Continuing to attack the Union Minister, Choudhary said that the BJP-led government has brought upon an uncertain future for the nation with its ‘digital economy’ initiative, while the common man continued to struggle.

‘Pardon me, but wasn’t a commitment made that the pain of the tsunami of demonetization would be relieved? All of us accepted the initial announcement because of the first impression created that it was the so called surgical strike on corruption and black money. But 93 % of the currency was outlawed by a stroke of a pen,” Choudhary said.

He also criticised the Centre for repeatedly changing the cash withdrawal limits, creating panic in the minds of people.

“His Excellency (President Pranab Mukherjee) was told that this was a necessary inconvenience for the greater good. It was a poor plan, as the plans were changed every day. There was no control over bank managers and in the coming deadline we witnessed a new slogan of going digital being promoted. The forced electronic transaction of cash raised several corners concerns,” Choudhary added.

Emphasising that the Union Government is hell bent on promoting e-payments, he further stated that the development came at a particularly troublesome time when banks have been charging service tax on digital transactions.

“Since the electronic transaction of cash has almost become mandatory, people feel that there should not be any charges on credit and debit cards. It is unfortunate that unlike cash transaction, common people have to pay fee on each electronic transaction,” he said.

Choudhary then quoted a World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) report stating that the ATM penetration in India is abysmal in comparison with other Asian countries.

“The government is making the electronic transactions almost mandatory for the common people, then it has to arrange a perfect digital connection in all cities, town and villages. It is important to note that India has only 75 ATMs per one lakh adults. If we compare it with China it has 254, South Korea has 278, North America has 221, Japan has 127 and in Thailand it has 140, according to a World Bank and IMF data,” he said.

He also urged the Centre to formulate a bill in making the Right to Digital Access a constitutional right.

Meanwhile, the Janata Dal (United) had announced that it would hold a meeting to review its stand on demonetization after January 24.

This comes at a time when Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, differing from his ‘mahagathbandhan’ allies, has repeatedly praised and showed support to Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his demonetization move.