Over 99% demonetised currency notes back into system

Opposition calls it Modi-made disaster

More than 99% of the Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 old currency notes that were held invalid following November 2016 demonetisation have come back into the banking system, the Reserve Bank of India said Wednesday, raising doubts on whether India's black money was actually held in cash as claimed by the government.

Rs 15.31 lakh crore out of the total Rs 15.41 lakh crore of the demonetised currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination have been returned, the RBI said in its annual report 2017-18. This makes it to 99.30%.

On November 8, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced the demonetisation of high-value currency notes taking the nation by surprise. The prime minister subsequently claimed that demonetisation revealed Rs 3 lakh crore worth of black money. The government also claimed that curbing unaccounted wealth was the primary focus of demonetisation along with making India a less-cash economy.

Minutes after the RBI report was out in the public domain, the Opposition demanded an apology from the Prime Minister. "Modiji, will you apologise for that lie now?" chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala asked.

Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said more than 100 lives were lost and lakhs of jobs were destroyed due to the closure of businesses after demonetisation. He said the Indian economy lost 1.5 % of GDP growth that accounted for a loss of Rs 2.25 lakh crore a year, he said.

The attack came after the central bank, which took nearly two years to count the returned currency notes, said the exercise was finally over.

The "humongous task of processing and verification of specified bank notes (SBNs) was successfully achieved," it said.

"So, government and RBI actually demonetised only Rs 13,000 crore and the country paid a huge price. Over 100 lives were lost. 15 crore daily wage earners lost their livelihood for several weeks. Thousands of SME units were shut down. Lakhs of jobs were destroyed. Indian economy lost 1.5 % of GDP in terms of growth. That alone was a loss of Rs 2.25 lakh crore a year," Chidambaram said in series of tweets.

RBI incurred Rs 7,965 crore on printing currency notes in 2016-17, up from Rs 3,420 crore the previous year. It spent Rs 4,192 crore on printing new currency notes during remonetisation in the last one year.

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Over 99% demonetised currency notes back into system

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