Demonetisation: Shaktikanta Das brushes aside query on Urjit Patel’s silence

RBI governor Urjit Patel has not made any statement on the management of the cash situation after demonetisation of Rs500 and Rs1000 notes


RBI is the issuer of currency, and the management of currency is one of its core central banking functions. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
RBI is the issuer of currency, and the management of currency is one of its core central banking functions. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: With Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel yet to make any public statement even two weeks after currency demonetization, the finance ministry on Wednesday played down his silence, saying it is irrelevant as to who communicates government policies.

Economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das, who has been holding fort since the 8 November decision to ban old Rs500 and Rs1000 notes by almost daily announcing measures taken by the government to ease the cash crunch, said more important than who addresses is the issue of communicating and giving information. “It is not relevant who speaks. I am speaking on behalf of the government, I am not speaking here in my individual capacity. So, therefore, it is irrelevant whether I am speaking or somebody else is speaking,” Das said.

He was asked why Patel has not made a single public statement and why Das alone was making announcements on the issue. “Let’s not do these things...For communication purposes, it is irrelevant who addresses. The idea is government should communicate and give out all the information,” Das said.

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Neither finance secretary Ashok Lavasa nor Anjuly Chib Duggal, secretary financial services - the department in charge of banking operations, have held a press conference on the issue.

RBI is the issuer of currency, and the management of currency is one of its core central banking functions. The media-shy Patel, who took over from Raghuram Rajan as the governor of the central in early September, has not made any statement on the management of cash situation after 86% of the currency in circulation was withdrawn and printing of new Rs2000 and Rs500 notes begun, leaving Das to do all the fire-fighting.

From the banks’ side, State Bank of India (SBI) chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya has been doing all the talking on the recalibration of ATMs and availability of cash.

The 8 November demonetization decision had sent the public at large scrambling to get hold of valid currency notes as bank and ATMs went out of cash. The All India Bank Officers Confederation has reportedly called for the resignation of Patel for “utterly failing” in his role and causing havoc to the nation’s economy.

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