New Delhi: Opposition parties took to the streets all over the country on Monday to denounce the scrapping of high-value currency but the protests were largely symbolic barring in a few states.
Monday also saw the first two instances of vandalisation, in Manipur, of banks by clients after they were stopped from withdrawing Rs24,000 (Dh1,283) citing a cash crunch.
The Left called a ‘Bharat Bandh’ (shutdown across India) against both the November 8 demonetisation and the widespread currency shortage. Most other political parties marked it as ‘Aakrosh Diwas’ (day of anger).
Life was badly hit in Left-ruled Kerala and Tripura while Left activists partly halted rail and road traffic in Bihar. The protests in West Bengal were dominated by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who vowed to oust Prime Minister Narendra Modi from politics.
“I appeal to everybody, take a vow — either I will die or live, but remove Modi from politics. There is no place for dictators like you, Modi babu,” Mamata told a massive rally in Kolkata.
She asked Modi to take back his “disastrous decision” of banning the old Rs500 and Rs1,000 notes, saying it had caused widespread misery and some 80 deaths in the country.
Normal life was crippled in Tripura in response to a 12-hour shutdown called by the Left that shut government and private offices, educational institutions and shops. Most banks were open — with permission.
Almost all vehicles went off the roads. Train services were affected.
The shutdown appeared to be total in Kerala. Only private vehicles plied, offices saw minimal attendance and normal life was crippled. In Kerala too, banks were allowed to remain open.
The strike evoked a mixed response in Bihar. Normal life was hit in some rural areas, but urban areas were largely unaffected. Train and road traffic was disrupted in some places.
The Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress did not join the shutdown but staged protests. The Janata Dal-United of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar kept itself away from both the strike and demonstrations.
In New Delhi, the Congress described the demonetisation as the “biggest scam in independent India” and asked Modi to apologise for the “mess” he had created.
Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said “Modi has brought the entire country to a standstill and demonetised the whole country”.
In most states, opposition activists and leaders staged noisy protests.
In Chennai, police arrested Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader M.K. Stalin, state Congress President S. Thirunavukkarasar and Communist Party of India-Marxists leader G. Ramakrishnan along with their supporters. But life was otherwise normal in the state.
Stalin said the DMK was not opposed to the demonetisation but was critical of the hardship it had caused to the common man.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the scheme had flopped vis-a-vis its stated objectives.
“The entire scheme is a flop,” he said, adding Modi’s ego had put the entire nation into misery and pushed back the economy by a decade in just 20 days.
At a separate venue, the AAP accused Modi of shifting the debate from black economy to cashless economy and said the demonetisation decision had turned from a “Tughlaki farman” to a “Talibani farman”.
In Manipur, angry customers vandalised two SBI branches after the bank refused to let them withdraw Rs24,000 each from their accounts citing a cash crunch. A policeman was injured in the violence.
The ‘Bharat Bandh’ evoked little support in Uttar Pradesh, where both the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and the ruling Samajwadi Party are bitter critics of demonetisation.
Samajwadi Party workers protested on rail tracks in Allahabad and Kanpur. But major markets by and large remained open.
“The BJP says the opposition has called a Bharat Bandh but the fact is the BJP itself has done a Bharat Bandh by demonetising high currency notes,” BSP leader Mayawati said.
In Odisha, opposition activists staged noisy protests in many cities and towns. But the ruling BJD has welcomed the demonetisation move.
Led by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, leaders from the Congress, CPM, CPI, DMK and Rashtriya Janata Dal protested outside Parliament. Both the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha were again adjourned on Monday.