Arun Jaitley greeted by long queues on his visit to Delhi ATMs, sticks to guns on demonetisation

Long queues outside banks and ATMs greeted Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as he ventured out to streets of Delhi to get a perspective of how the demonetisation decision was being rolled out on the ground.

Jaitley’s ATM visit, to several tellers near Rajiv Chowk metro station, comes more than a month after the decision to abolish 500 and 1000-rupee notes overnight was announced in a Nov 8 televised address by Modi.

This is perhaps the first instance of a high-ranking government minister in the inner circle of Prime Minister Narendra Modi getting out to gauge the popular pulse, amid indications that the common man is fast running out of patience due to severe cash crunch that has virtually affected every Indian.

Queues have become a common sight in India these days, with many people comparing them to days when people used to queue up for groceries at government-run centres.

The government has, however, stuck to its guns through the demonetisation drive.

Jaitley defended the government’s decision to abolish higher value denomination, in an interview he gave to a news agency today.

He said that demonetisation was a “strategy” put in place to fight graft, which he said had peaked during previous Congress-led government’s tenure.

Jaitley expressed confidence that the current cash crunch would subside soon as more new notes are pumped into circulation.

RBI will inject significant amount of currency in coming days, Press Trust of India reported him saying.

The senior parliamentarian further reiterated the government’s pledge to make the Indian economy go ‘cashless’, one of the revised goals that the government is hoping to achieve through scrapping higher currency notes.

Some analysts have noted that the government’s rhetoric has changed over time since cash ban was announced on Nov 8. At the time of announcing demonetisation, fighting corruption and counterfeit currency were among the main objectives on which PM Modi reasoned his decision.

Jaitley’s visit to the streets was well complemented by BJP’s Delhi unit, which announced they would distribute ‘laddoos’ to the people of Delhi from January 1.

It is our way of thanking people for their patience through this exercise, recently appointed BJP’s Delhi head Manoj Tiwari was reported saying.