Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Saturday (December 31) unveiled a series of cash handouts, cheaper loans and tax breaks for women, farmers and businesses as he defended the move to ban high-value banknotes.
In a New Year’s Eve address, Modi thanked people for their “patient sacrifice, discipline and resolve” in supporting the withdrawal of some 85 per cent of all bills in circulation, which he said had laid the foundation for a better India.
His televised remarks followed the expiry of a deadline for people to swap their old Rs500 (£5.95) and Rs1,000 notes for new ones the previous day.
The Indian leader has been widely hailed for his assault on tax evasion, but long queues outside banks, a cash crunch and policy flip-flops since the November 8 announcement quickly led to anger in some quarters.
“The troubles faced and the sacrifices made by the people to build a better India is an example for all of us,” Modi said in his 45-minute speech, describing the cash ban as a “big fight” against corruption and unaccounted wealth.
In an effort to appease those most affected by the cash crunch, Modi said the government would offer cheaper loans to home buyers and farmers as well as cash handouts for pregnant women.
He also unveiled tax breaks for small and medium-sized businesses.
India’s main opposition Congress party was quick to dismiss Modi’s announcement.
“Disappointed with PM’s speech. Many questions left unanswered. His decision paralysed economy; the country can’t run this way,” party spokesman Randeep S Surjewala said on Twitter.