Arun Jaitley defends Urjit Patel over handling of demonetisation move

Arun Jaitley’s comments come a day after Jairam Ramesh criticized Urjit Patel for misleading the nation about the RBI’s preparedness on demonetisation


Congress leader Jairam Ramesh questioned the RBI governor Urjit Patel’s silence on the demonetisation issue. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh questioned the RBI governor Urjit Patel’s silence on the demonetisation issue. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday defended Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel after Congress leader Jairam Ramesh accused Patel of sacrificing the central bank’s autonomy and sought his resignation over the handling of the partial demonetisation exercise.

In a tweet on Sunday, Jaitley said, “An unfair attack by Jairam Ramesh on the RBI governor. Must politicians attack those who cannot defend themselves in the same tone?”

Jaitley’s comments come a day after Ramesh criticized the central bank governor. “Urjit Patel is either guilty of misleading the nation about the RBI’s preparedness on demonetisation or has sacrificed the autonomy of the RBI. Either way, he should resign,” Ramesh wrote in the National Herald.

Along with the finance ministry, the RBI has been facing criticism for the shortage of cash in the banking system after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the cancellation of old Rs500 and Rs1,000 banknotes—constituting 86% of the currency in circulation—from 9 November. Though the lines at banks and automated teller machines (ATMs) are getting shorter, at least in urban areas, complaints of cash shortage, especially in notes of smaller denominations, persists. In rural areas, where bank branches are few, people continue to struggle to withdraw money from their accounts.

Ramesh also questioned the central bank governor’s silence on the whole issue. Patel, except for his joint press conference with the finance ministry on 8 November immediately after Modi’s announcement, has not made any public statement in over more than two weeks.

“How can the head of the RBI, which is solely responsible for the current currency crisis, not be seen clarifying and assuring the nation amid this grave crisis? RBI is the monetary authority of India and is solely responsible for making banknotes available to all residents of India. If RBI headed by Patel gave its approval to the prime minister’s demonetisation plan, then ostensibly RBI was confident of making currency notes available easily,” Ramesh wrote.

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