Prime Minister Narendra Modi defended on Tuesday his surprise decision to recall high-value banknotes, saying the move was made at an opportune moment when the economy was in good health and there was a lull in business after the festive season.
In what was his first defence in parliament of the “demonetisation” of 500-and 1000-rupee, Modi said the decision was made at a time when the festive season business had peaked after Diwali and there was a slack period when businesses take it easy.
“When can you have an operation? When the body is healthy. The economy was doing well and thus our decision was taken at the right time,” Modi said.
“Like Swachh Bharat, the decision on demonetisation is a movement to clean India (from corruption and black money).”
Calling demonetisation a “pro-poor” move, he said the government was clear from the beginning that “we are ready for a discussion on demonetisation but some were more keen on TV bytes and not debates.”
He said the government has taken a series of steps to bring back into the economy – from higher taxes on jewellery, to a new stringent law against benami properties and a voluntary disclosure of income scheme – to create a framework of compliance.
“However big you are, you will have to return what rightfully belongs to the poor,” he said.
Modi also said his government had done much more than any other government, including forming a special investigation team on black money on the direction of the Supreme Court.