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India’s opposition holds protests against currency crackdown

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Opposition parties in India on Monday held nationwide protests against the government’s currency crackdown and its disruptive impact on people’s lives.

India’s highest value bank notes of 500 and 1,000 rupees (7 and 15 dollars) ceased to be legal tender from midnight of November 8. The move led to a liquidity crunch and widespread chaos as people queued up at banks to exchange old currency.

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Premier Narendra Modi defended the move saying it will fight corruption and tax evasion but the opposition has accused the government of mishandling the currency ban.

The main opposition Indian National Congress that called for Jan Aakrosh Diwas (People’s Day of Rage) launched the day-long agitation with a protest outside Parliament House in Delhi.

Tens of thousands of activists from over a dozen opposition parties took to the streets in different parts of the country.

Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said his party was not opposed to the government decision but accused it of being insensitive to the plight of ordinary people.

Left-wing parties have called for a nationwide shutdown, but it was expected to have an impact only in a few states including Kerala, where they have a presence.

Markets, factories, offices and schools remained open in most parts of India.

Modi is expected to speak on the measure in parliament, where proceedings have been disrupted by opposition leaders over the past few weeks.

The government says Indians have overwhelmingly backed the move to fight corruption and vows the cash crunch will ease by the end of December.

-dpa