New Delhi: The Opposition on Wednesday tried to corner the government in the Rajya Sabha over demonetisation issue on the first day of the Winter Session of Parliament, but the treasury benches stuck to their guns and asserted that the move was a "war on corruption".
At the same time, the government rejected as baseless the Opposition charge that there was "leakage" of the November 8 decision and said everyone was taken by surprise which is why there are "initial" problems.
Defending the government, Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the hardships faced by the people were "birth pangs".
Giving assurance to the people, Naidu said, "If your money is valid, it won't become invalid."
Naidu, on the question of hardships being faced by people to withdraw money from the banks, said, "These are birth pangs. Just as a woman undergoes severe labour pain before giving birth and her pain turns into joy when the baby is born, this process will lead to happy outcome for the country," he said.
Govt defends demonetisation move:
On the other hand, Power Minister Piyush Goyal, who spoke on behalf of the ruling side, said the move would benefit India in the long run.
"There is no politics in it. It is a step taken in national interest," he said, adding, "If anyone has the strength to take on black money and corruption, it is the BJP government and Narendra Modi."
He claimed that common people are out in support of the government's move which is aimed against graft and terror and that the step will lead to curbing inflation and tax rate may come down.
Goyal claimed that the country has welcomed this initiative of the Modi government and it is natural that some people who have black money and are indulging in corruption and black money are worried about it.
"There is no curb on honestly-earned money. So nobody should have a problem," he added.
"Desh me imandaar ka samman hua hai aur be-imaan ka nuksaan hua hai, (The honest have been honoured and the dishonest have faced losses)," he said, as per PTI.
"I am confident that public is understanding the initial problems because the decision was kept a secret. No honest tax-payer will lose a single rupee. The loss will be of those who have amassed wealth through corruption and black money and the public should also support the government in the move," he said.
Goyal said some pain and difficulty in the implementation of such a decision is inevitable but despite that the people have strongly supported the move.
He urged all the parties to support the move so that the House gives a message to the country that all are against corruption and black money.
Taking a dig at the Opposition, he said, "We thought all political parties will support us in Parliament. But for some reasons they have opposed the move. It seems they are worried due to the large public favouring it and supporting the government despite the problems being faced by them."
Goyal also said BJP has already put out its poll expenses on the website and after this step all will think before indulging in corruption and black marketing.
Opposition targets govt:
Joining ranks over the raging issue, parties like Congress, JD(U), RJD, SP, BSP, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIADMK slammed the government, particularly targeting PM Modi, for making Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination notes invalid and said the "ill-timed" and "ill-conceived" step had severely hit the common people, the farmers and the poor.
Speaking on the issue, Deputy Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma termed the move as a "nadirshahi farman" (autocratic order).
"No ordinance was brought for demonetisation. This is a Nadirshahi farman... Which law gave this government the right to bar me from withdrawing my money from the bank," Anand Sharma said, as per IANS.
BSP chief Mayawati questioned the government's preparedness for the demonetisation of high-value bank notes, accusing it of spending the last 10 months on settling the black money of its people.
"The government has said that they spent 10 months preparing for this decision. Ten months was a long time to prepare. If they were serious about it, they would have prepared well for all the problems that people are facing today," she said.
And when CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury raised the issue of "writing off" of Rs 7,000 crore worth of corporate loans by turning them into Non Performing Assets (NPA) by the State Bank of India, Leader of the House and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley intervened saying by turning loans to NPAs does not mean that the loan seizes to exist.
"The bank would still pursue that loan. NPA does not mean writing it off. Liability to pay and right to recover still remains," Jaitley said.
PM hopes for healthy debates:
Earlier, PM Modi called for healthy debates on various issues, including the GST, during the winter session of Parliament.
"I am expecting a very healthy and useful debate about issues including the GST in this session of the Parliament," he said.
The Prime Minister also hoped that parties will present their views on various issues to be debated. "We will talk about people's aspirations."
The Lok Sabha was adjourned after obituary references.
(With Agency inputs)