New Delhi: The Central government, for the first time, has admitted that people did die due to reasons linked with its sudden demonetisation move in 2016. It has said four people, which included three bank staff and one customer, died during the demonetisation and were paid compensation as well.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, laying out the details in response to a question in Rajya Sabha, has admitted that State Bank of India reported these four deaths. "State Bank of India has reported that three staff members and one customer died during the period of demonetisation," stated Jaitley's answer.
The minister’s response came to a question by CPI(M) MP Elamaram Kareem, who asked about the number of persons, including bank workers, who had lost their lives during demonetisation by standing in queues for changing currency, mental shock, work pressure etc.
The government said that apart from SBI, all other public sector banks have reported zero deaths due to demonetisation.
The Finance Minister said a compensation of Rs 44 lakh, including Rs 3 lakh to the customer, has been paid to the family members. Notably, he also said that "no specific study has been done by government" on the impact of demonetisation on industry and employment situation in the country.
Jaitley added that as against Rs 3,421 crore on printing of notes during 2015-16 — the year prior to demonetisation — Rs 7,965 crore and Rs 4,912 crore were spent on printing of banknotes in the year 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively.
"In addition, Rs 1.09 billion, Rs 1.47 billion and 1.15 billion were spent on remittance of currency in the year 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18 respectively," stated the reply to the question regarding the expenditure for replenishing the currency withdrawn during noteban.
Following the announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016, the government had scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes in a bid to weed out black money. Chaotic scenes and long queues were witnessed outside banks and ATMs across the country as people rushed to withdraw or exchange notes after the sudden move.
While several reports of deaths due to reasons directly or indirectly linked with demonetisation had surfaced, the government had so far maintained that it has not received any "official report" on deaths during the course of currency exchange and withdrawals following the noteban.
The NDA government had faced a barrage of criticism by the Opposition over the plan, which it said impacted the economy and employment badly while failing to achieve its objective of unearthing untaxed and black money.