Modi pleads for 50 days to rid India of corruption

The sign at a medical store in Lucknow stating its refusal to accept the old 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes. The move to pull the high-denomination notes from circulation has left millions scrambling to withdraw cash for daily expenses at local shop
The sign at a medical store in Lucknow stating its refusal to accept the old 500 rupee and 1,000 rupee notes. The move to pull the high-denomination notes from circulation has left millions scrambling to withdraw cash for daily expenses at local shops or even for rickshaw fares in an economy which is largely cash-driven.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday made an emotional appeal to people to make India graft-free, as chaotic scenes erupted outside banks nationwide after high-denomination notes were pulled from circulation.

India's central bank also urged savers not to hoard money as public anger mounted over the government's shock decision to clean up India's black economy.

"People are going through great pains. I feel that pain," Mr Modi said at an event in western Goa state.

"This scheme is not born from arrogance. I have seen such adversities up close. I understand the trouble everyone is facing."

He added: "Please, 50 days, just give me 50 days.

"After Dec 30, I promise to show you the India that you have always wished for."

Mr Modi also vowed to pursue his fight against corruption and tax evasion even if it meant scanning records dating back to India's independence in 1947.

Thousands of people were again standing outside banks across the country trying to change 500 rupee (S$10.50) and 1,000 rupee bills which the government abolished last Tuesday. The banned rupee notes made up more than 80 per cent of the currency in circulation, leaving millions without cash and threatening to bring much of the cash-driven economy to a halt.

As banks struggled to dispense money, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said small-denomination currency notes were available with both the central bank and with other lenders. People "need not be anxious" and should not hoard bank notes because "cash is available when they need it", the RBI said in a statement.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 14, 2016, with the headline 'Modi pleads for 50 days to rid India of corruption'. Print Edition | Subscribe