How can people come out on streets to protest demonetisation if Modi knocks out cash from under them: Sharad Yadav

Former Janata Dal United president says almost 70 per cent of India didn�t vote for Modi or the BJP and they have been severely letdown

How can people come out on streets to protest demonetisation if Modi knocks out cash from under them: Sharad Yadav

Nidheesh J. Villatt: Indians are suffering because of demonetisation. There is no precedent to this kind of suffering. But in a strange move, Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has supported demonetisation arguing that it can help fight black money. What’s happening? Is there a divide in JD (U)?

Sharad Yadav: Black money is a major disease that is affecting Indian economy. There is no doubt that it should be fought tooth and nail. As a responsible political party, JD (U) is not opposed to end black money. Fight against black money is essential to have a healthy and egalitarian economy.

Nidheesh: So you consider demonetisation drive as a fight against black money?

Sharad Yadav: Do you think that demonetisation is helping the fight against black money? Instead of eliminating black money, it’s causing tremendous suffering for the people. Don’t you see huge queues in front of banks? Aren’t you aware that even deaths are happening because of this crisis? JD (U) is sensitive to the crisis faced by poor people.

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Nidheesh: Farmers are an important part of your base. There are several reports that farmers are badly affected. What do you think?

Sharad Yadav: You are right. Rural India is really suffering. All operations related to agriculture have been disrupted. In a way, demonetisation can intensify the rural crisis. If political establishment is not sensitive to rural India, the political cost would be great.

Nidheesh: Modi is not ready to debate the crisis in Parliament. Don’t you think he is sabotaging parliamentary democracy?

Sharad Yadav: A united opposition is demanding the Prime Minister to debate it. In a parliamentary democracy, debate is important. We are representing people. The government should listen to our voices even if the PM is opposed to our position. The Prime Minister should take Parliament into confidence. In democracy, there is no scope for one-way traffic. There should be two-way traffic. One-way traffic is authoritarianism.

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Nidheesh: Reports from all over India hint that people are suffering because of demonetisation. But we are not seeing a mass movement against it in streets. Why is it? Does opposition fear Modi?

Sharad Yadav: There is no question of fearing anyone. It’s true that people are suffering but there is not a movement on streets. How can people go into streets if they are fighting to meet basic needs like food, medicine etc? If you have sick people at home, your first preference would be to give them food and medicine. To buy food and medicine, you have to stand in queue for hours. In some cases, you have to be in a queue for two or three days. But please don’t write off the Opposition. We are waiting for an appropriate time. If the government is not addressing the sufferings caused to crores of Indians, people would go into streets. Opposition parties will lead it. Modi should remember the arithmetic of vote share. BJP has the majority in Lok Sabha. But if you analyse vote share, about 70% of total vote share is divided among opposition parties. To put it precisely, if Modi is moving ahead without addressing concerns raised by the opposition, he is not addressing a majority of Indians.

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Nidheesh: As a Parliamentarian, you have raised issues of caste violence and discrimination.  Do you think demonetisation has also a caste angle to it?

Sharad Yadav: People from all castes are affected by it. But because of strange structural and social inequalities in Indian society, the lower you are in caste hierarchy, the chances of you being affected by demonetisation are high. Lower caste people are largely landless and don’t have access to banking resources. Their literacy level is also disproportionately low. A major chunk of them is working in the informal sector which is based on the cash economy. For a majority of Dalits and Adivasis, even loss of a single working day can ruin their family budget. So imagine, they are waiting in bank queues for several days!