The chatter about the merits and demerits of demonetisation continue but one basic fact cannot be denied that this entire demonetisation drive has suddenly brought forth a completely new villain in the game plan.
As the queues continue outside the ATMs, more that 85,000 new Rs 2000 notes were confiscated on suspicion of illegal acquisition. Come to think of it these Rs 2000 notes were the first to be released post the demonetisation and there are very outsiders excepting bank officials who were privy to the information. Yet the income tax data reveals that over Rs 17 crores were seized in Rs 2000 notes.
Not just that even the daily exchange limit of Rs 4000 in banks was reduced after a couple of days on suspicion that bank officers were colluding to help black marketeers to convert their unaccounted for money. News paper reports indicate that as much as 44 fake accounts have been identified which resulted in total deposits exceeding Rs 100 crores in a single Axis Bank branch in New Delhi.
A separate probe found two Axis Bank employees responsible for converting close to a whopping Rs 30 crore in new currency notes. In fact if some of the news reports and tweets released thus far is to be believed corrupt banks officials, brokers and businessmen have been caught red handed trying to convert money in valid currency notes across 425 branches covering many states.
In Karnataka and Goa, the IT officials have registered nearly 36 cases and recovered jewellery and currency worth close to Rs 10 billion.
At a time when an individual’s personal withdrawal limit is capped at Rs 24000 or a mere 12 notes of Rs 2000 a week, Rs 10 crore in 2,000-rupee notes were seized from a businessman in Chennai. In fact he had a whopping 50,000 new Rs 2,000 on him. The notes have been in circulation for just under a month, the calculation is not matching yet.
The nearest ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank ATMs in and around my house seem to be perpetually out of cash yet Rs 242 crore in new currency has been seized across many areas of the country. The seizure of these new notes in such huge quantity is absolutely baffling. Great secrecy was maintained and they started being printed in earnest only after the demonetisation move was announced yet several bundles of Rs 2000 were seized from different parts of the country. Recently 5 men were nabbed in Mumbai for carrying Rs 72 lakhs in 2,000-rupee notes while Rs 76 Lakhs in new Rs 2000 note was found in a car in Surat.
All of these point to the rather sickening probability of how Banks instead of helping handle corruption are perhaps the biggest partners in crime for the black marketeers. While the nation is still debating the patchy implementation, it’s time the Government took a serious re-look at the whole situation and looked at ways to root out corruption at its very hub. While you can continue arguing about the exact extent of money seized, bankers are accountable like never before at the moment. The fact that nearly 30 bank officials have been suspended over the past month speaks volume of the rot in our banking system. The buck needs to stop right there.