NEW DELHI – Thousands of Indians protested on Wednesday in the country’s capital on the first anniversary of the government’s decision to withdraw higher-denomination banknotes making up 86 percent of the currency in circulation to fight against money laundering and corruption.
The thick blanket of smog over New Delhi did not prevent supporters of the Indian National Congress, the main opposition party, from taking part in the demonstrations organized throughout the country against the 2016 demonetization and other policies implemented by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s executive.
“We are protesting against Modi’s organized looting that is demonetization,” Indian Youth Congress National Secretary Sitaram Lamba told EFE.
The protesters, the majority of whom were wearing black attire, carried out a sit-in in the middle of a street while shouting slogans calling for the Modi’s ouster and accusing him of having reduced them to beggars.
“Black Day. Demonetization – an organized loot,” some of the protest signs read.
“The common people of India have gone back 10-20 years. We were a fast-growing economy but it seems like the system has been broken. It’s the youth who are unemployed, it’s the businessmen who have no business,” Lamba added.
A music group livened up the atmosphere from a stage under which some stretchers covered with blankets were placed, symbolizing the dozens who had died in the lines that formed in front of banks as people exchanged old notes for new ones.
Congress member Pankaj Kapoor said that the Modi government had helped the rich become richer, and his economic policies had negatively affected 70 percent of the middle class.
“There are no jobs. People are dying of hunger. Children are sitting at home because people have no money to provide an education for their children,” he lamented.
On the night of Nov. 8, 2016, without prior warning, the Indian prime minister made a statement broadcast across the country, declaring that the highest-valued notes of 1,000 and 500 rupees ($15.4 and $7.7, respectively) would cease to be legal tender in order to fight against corruption and terrorism.
The move led to restrictions on withdrawing cash from banks, which resulted in a serious liquidity crisis that lasted several weeks.