Manmohan Singh criticised the government for an attitude "of suspecting everyone to be a thief or anti-national", and said, "low-level rhetoric is damaging to democratic discourse". While opposition parties have made a decision to observe Wednesday as a "black day", the BJP has dubbed it "anti-black money day".
"Demonetisation has proved to be a mere disaster".
Singh said that as the then finance minister, he had stepped forward to provide the funding from the Centre.
Describing the Modi Government's measure of demonetisation taken a year ago on November 8 as a "watershed moment", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the step was badly needed to change the status quo in the prevailing economic system.
Jaitley said this while addressing a press conference on the eve of one-year of demonetisation.
While addressing the traders and businessmen in Ahmedabad on Tuesday morning, Manmohan Singh said that he was shocked to hear the announcement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 8 Nov previous year and was thinking who could have suggested him to take such a reckless step. "It pains me to say that the Union government has completely failed to do its duty on both fronts", Singh said as he invoked Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Patel, the two political giants from Gujarat.
Dr Singh said that "demonetisation was clearly not the way to end the menace of tax evasion and black money". "The twin blows of demonetisation and GST have affected Indian economy", said Singh, citing figures to explain how imports from China have increased tremendously in the last fiscal.
"We know by now that none of the stated objectives of eliminating black money, terror financing and counterfeit currency have been met".
"The fact that more than 99 percent of demonetised currency came back into the banking system, has punctured the government's claims. And today, there isn't an global agency which does not eulogise the kind and quality of the structural reforms Indian is making".
"To promote a less cash economy coercive steps like demonetisation are ineffective". Even this is bound to be a gross underestimate as the pain of the informal sector is not adequately captured in the GDP calculation. Every one per cent loss of GDP annually costs our nation ₹1.5 lakh crore.
The Finance Minister said he was "more than satisfied" with the new direction the economy is moving. Instead of providing relief, as I had requested in Parliament, to the poor and marginalised, farmers, traders, and the small and medium businesses, who suffered the brunt of demonetisation, the government chose to inflict on them a badly designed and hastily implemented GST'.
Singh said, "Demonetisation was an attack on the independence and credibility of the RBI as an institution". "Demonetisation and GST have sown a deep-rooted fear of tax terrorism among businessmen". "This twin blow (GST and note ban) is a complete disaster for our economy, it has broken the back of our small businesses and traders".
The Congress leader further highlighted that India had to "run for Chinese imports" at the cost of Indian jobs and in the first half of 2016-17, imports from China stood at Rs.1.96 Lakh Crore and in 2017-18 it increased to Rs 2.41 Lakh Crore.
Trinamul Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also hit out at the government, saying demonetisation was a big scam.