As the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) battles to justify demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the move to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes last year was aimed at curbing black money and asserted that his government was not afraid of taking "big" and "tough" decisions in the interest of the country.
Addressing the Indian diaspora at Yangon's Thuwanna Indoor Stadium in Myanmar, Modi said his government could take such decisions because it considers the country bigger than politics.
Modi also listed surgical strikes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) last year and the GST which was rolled out on July 1 as the "big" and "tough" decisions taken by his three-year-old government.
Referring to the demonetisation announced on November 8 last year, the Prime Minister said the step was taken to curb black money and that it had helped identify lakhs of people who had crores of rupees in bank accounts but never paid income tax.
He also said that registration of over two lakh companies had been cancelled as those had been found to be indulging in laundering of black money.
"To deal with corruption, we banned currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination. A handful of corrupt people were making 125 crore people pay for their misdeeds. This was not acceptable to us," Modi said in 35-minute address.
"There used to be no clue as to from where black money was coming and where it was going," he said.
His justification of demonetisation came against the backdrop of criticism of the decision by the opposition parties after the Reserve Bank of India last week announced that almost 99 per cent of demonetised currency is back with the back system.
Modi also laid out his vision of 'New India' which he said he aimed to achieve by 2022 when India celebrates 75 years of Independence.
"We are not merely reforming India but are transforming India. A 'New India' is being built. We have pledged to develop a new India by the time Indian independence turns 75. An India free from poverty, terrorism, corruption, communalism, casteism is being created," he said.
Modi, who is on his maiden bilateral visit to Myanmar, today met country’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the two leaders discussed ways to further cement the bilateral relations.
Modi arrived here on Tuesday on a three-day visit in what is his first bilateral trip to India's eastern neighbour. He had earlier come here in 2014 to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean)-India Summit.