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In a remarkable instance of media bowing to political bosses, news portals like Times Now, News18.com, Firstpost and New Indian Express pulled down reports about BJP president Amit Shah’s links to a district cooperative bank which netted the highest deposits among such banks of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes that were abruptly demonetised on November 8, 2016.

The story came from the news agency, Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), and was based on a Right To Information (RTI) reply sought by Manoranjan S Roy, a Mumbai-based activist.The RTI information was given by the Chief General Manager and Appellate Authority, S Saravanavel, of the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD).

The story said a district cooperative bank which has BJP president Amit Shah as a director netted the highest deposits among such banks of banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes within five days of demonetisation on November 8, 2016.

The bank, Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank (ADCB) secured deposits of Rs 745.59 crore of the spiked notes – in just five days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement.

Notably, all the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016 – five days after demonetisation – on fears that black money would be laundered through this route.

According to the bank’s website, Shah continues to be a director with the bank and has been in that position for several years, said media reports. He was also the bank’s chairman in 2000. ADCB’s total deposits on March 31, 2017, were Rs 5,050 crore and its net profit for 2016-17 was Rs 14.31 crore.

Right behind ADCB is the Rajkot District Cooperative Bank, whose chairman JayeshbhaiVitthalbhaiRadadiya is a cabinet minister in Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s government. It got deposits of old currencies worth Rs 693.19 crore.

Interestingly, the figures of these DCCBs of Ahmedabad and Rajkot DCCBs are much higher than the apex Gujarat State Cooperative Bank Ltd, which got deposits of a mere Rs 1.11 crore.

Usually, news organisations would follow up on such information to get more details and either take the story forward or refute it, depending on how facts turn out. Instead, this story, which appeared in The New Indian Express, Firstpost, Times Now and CNN News18, has now been pulled down. According to reports, there were no explanations forthcoming from them. While the story was still up on Economic Times’ (ET) website, the report makes no mention of Shah.

Congress spokesperson Pawan Khera on Saturday, June 23, slamming acting Finance Minister Piyush Goyal for a “feeble response” on report about Amit Shah and forcing NABARD to issue a statement “that looked like a BJP statement”, also accused the BJP of coercing online media outlets to remove the story.

This isn’t the first time that stories critical of BJP leaders have suddenly vanished from news websites, reported news portal TheWire.

Interestingly, a report on India’s low ranking on the World Press Freedom index was pulled down from the Times of India (TOI) and ET websites in May in an ironic confirmation of the report.

In July 2017, a story carried by the TOI’s Ahmedabad edition about an apparent increase of “300%” in BJP president Amit Shah’s assets over the past five years, was removed from the paper’s website within hours of being published.

The story also noted that textiles and information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani has clarified in her affidavit that she has not yet completed her Bachelor of Commerce course. Similar news items published on July 29 by DNA‘s print edition and Outlook Hindi’s website were also deleted from their respective websites without any clarification, said TheWire.

A few months later, a story carried by the TOI‘s Jaipur edition criticising the Narendra Modi government’s Pradhan Mantri FasalBima Yojana on September 14, 2017, was taken down from the newspaper’s website within hours of publishing.

While stories were taken off by some news websites, NABARD issued a clarification on Friday afternoon.

It also claimed that the average deposit amount at the Ahmedabad Branch was Rs 46,795, lower than the average across DCCBs of Gujarat. It also sought to add context about the branch itself, saying has total business levels of more than Rs 9,000 crore and is one of India’s top DCCBs.

NABARD noted that all the bank accounts into which the demonetised notes were deposited were verified and checked to see if they had complied with ‘know-your-customer’ (KYC) regulations.

“As per the verification report of NABARD, required under the extant guidelines, the bank had also submitted the required Cash Transaction Reports (CTRs) and STRs to FlU-India wherever required,” it added.

It notes that district central cooperative banks in Gujarat received less demonetised notes when compared to their counterparts in Kerala and Maharashtra.

It also said that the amount of money that was deposited in the days after demonetisation in ADCB was in complete “proportion to the size and number of accounts in the bank”.

“Of the total 16 lakh accounts with the DCCB, deposits/ exchanges were made only by 1.60 lakh customersi.e. 9.37% of the total deposit accounts,” NABARD’s statement notes.

Out of these 1.60 lakh customers, less than Rs 2.5 lakh was deposited in 98.66% of the accounts. Out of the bank’s total accounts, 0.09% of accounts saw deposits above Rs 2.5 lakh made.

It raised some other issues that have not been answered:

(i) In the run-up to decision of demonetisation, BJP and RSS purchased properties running into hundreds of crores across the country. Congress had released details of 8 properties valuing Rs.3.41 crore in Bihar and 18 properties in Odisha. Actual market value of these properties is much higher. Despite this, Shri Narendra Modi and Shri Amit Shah have refused to make public the details of properties purchased by BJP/RSS in the last 19 months.

Does it not prove that BJP had advance knowledge of the decision of demonetisation and was converting its money into assets immediately before demonetisation?

(ii) Mahesh Shah of Ahmedabad, Gujarat made a declaration of Rs.13,860 crore in the voluntary income disclosure scheme. He later resiles. As he was giving a TV interview disclosing names of politicians and bureaucrats, he was taken away by Income Tax authorities. Former Gujarat CM, Shri Sureshbhai Mehta has openly spoken about links of Mahesh Shah with Shri Narendra Modi and Shri Amit Shah. Why have they not been investigated?

(iii) In September 2016; bank deposits in scheduled banks saw an additional increase of Rs.5,88,600 lakh crore. Out of this, fixed deposits made between Ist September to 15th September 2016 alone were over Rs.3 lakh crore. Does it not prove advance knowledge of the decision of demonetisation and conversion of money? Modi government has not been unable to explain it nor has made public names of everyone, who had deposited Rs.25 lakh or more.

(iv) Kolkata Unit of BJP was caught depositing Rs.500/Rs.1000 notes running into Rs.3 crore on the day of demonetisation in A/c No. 554510034. Despite repeated demands, BJP and RSS have not made public details of money deposited between IstMarch, 2016 and 8th November, 2016 in its bank accounts across the country.

(v) Shockingly and just before demonetization on 08-09-2016, cash of Rs.3 crore was seized from a Maruti Swift Car bearing Regn. No. HR-26AR-9662 at Indira Puram, Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh. The two occupants of the car, Sidharth Shukla and Anoop Aggarwal claimed that the money belonged to them and they were taking it to Lucknow. Ghaziabad City BJP President, Ashok Monga reached the Police Station and certified on a letter pad that the money was being ‘sent by BJP Central Office to BJP State Office in Lucknow’

(vi) Ramesh Gowda, an associate of Karnataka BJP leader & former Minister, G. Janardan Reddy, committed suicide and left behind a suicide note stating conversion of Rs.100 crore of black money by the BJP leader.

These numbers do add context to the statistics revealed in the RTI reply, but they do not serve as anything of a clean chit or a denial.

It raises further questions about the small number of accounts in which huge amounts of money were clearly deposited.

As tweeted by Neeraj (@Neeraj_2018): “As per NABARD, 98.66% accounts deposited less than ₹2.5L i.eapprox 1.58L Accounts deposited less than 2.50 i.e around 395 Cr.(considering each deposited ₹2,49,999).

Rest 2k account holders deposited around ₹ 351 Cr ??”

A previous story on news portal TheQuint provides context to the IANS story on RTI reply to Manoranjan S Roy.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, YatinOza, former BJP MLA and Amit Shah’s political mentor, has written that industrialists close to the BJP government already knew of demonetisation before the official announcement on 8 November.

Oza claims to possess a video recording which will prove beyond doubt that close associates of Amit Shah were aware of demonetisation beforehand, reports the Citizen.in.

Excerpt from YatinOza’s Letter:

“I have a video recording with me which will clearly and beyond reasonable doubt prove that all the near and close associates of Shri Amit Shah since 8th Nov till today are engaged into exchange business. There is a big queue outside their office and residence for conversion of black money into white at a discounted rate of 37%, people have queued up outside their office and residence. One has to go without identity with at least a sum of Rs. 1 Crore which will be counted by the employees and a bag containing Rs. 63 lakhs of valid denomination would be handed over.”

In his letter he has also alleged that district banks in Gujarat exchanged Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes before the announcement.

“This in my respectful submission was permitted to be done in Gujarat because all district co-operative banks are controlled by people committed to BJP. These banks right from 9 PM on 8/11/2016 till 5 AM on 9/11/2016 exchanged Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes against smaller denomination. You had through RBI called for the details of exact cash with denominations from all banks of the country on 08/11/2016. You yourself get it verified the veracity of my above statement. I assure you that if I am proved wrong I will tender a public apology.”

The Congress issued a lengthy statement attacking Modi government and the BJP, saying, “19 months post ‘Modi Made Disaster’of Demonetisation, it is now officially clear that this entire exercise was the Biggest Scam in Independent India, indulged to convert its ill-gotten ‘Black Money’ into ‘White’!”

It also alluded to Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s case in which his company’s turnover was said to have grown 16,000 times in a year after Narendra Modi became prime minister. Referring the bank with Amit Shah as its director, it said, “Amit Shah’s close associate, Yashpal Chudasama, whose name appears in the infamous ‘Jay Shah-Zyada’ Case is also a director of the ADCB.”

“It is important to underline the fact that all the district cooperative banks were banned from accepting deposits of the banned currency notes from the public after November 14, 2016, –five days after demonetisation — on the pretext that ‘Black Money’would be laundered through this route. But in the case of ADCB of which BJP President is a director, it was already ‘transferred’!” Congress said.

The Congress said there were 11 District Co-operative Banks in Gujarat headed by BJP leaders, including above two, in which ₹3118.51Cr worth of old notes were deposited with in these 5 days.

Full Text of YatinOza’s Open Letter to PM Modi

Dear Narendra Bhai,

I hope this letter finds you in best of health and happiness. On 8th of November 2016, after I heard your speech on demonetization, I was really very happy and from within complimented you for such a bold and historic step. Unfortunately, happiness did not last long. In the morning of 9th Nov, someone very near and dear informed me that yesterday i.e. on 8th Nov at around 12 in the afternoon wife of one of the leading industrialist of Ahmedabad in her presence came to a very leading jewellery shop and as per pre-order purchased gold worth 20 crores. Gold was ready and packed and it took two minutes to transfer gold and cash to each other. She was incidentally present at the shop buying pre ordered jewellery worth Rs. 5 lakhs. She is a doctor of a very high repute and eminence.

Having worked so closely with you and being a part of your kitchen cabinet at one point of time in past it immediately clicked to my mind that information of demonetization must have been conveyed well before announcement to your near and dear industrialist who in total controls 50% of black money of this country. Having spent whole day inquiring, thinking on the above lines the information that I gathered is shocking, by adhering to such a popularistic) measure you have really befooled the people of this nation.

In fact your above move was to enrich your near and dear ones, your party and your party workers by apparently putting forward the national cause and interest.

I have a video recording with me which will clearly and beyond reasonable doubt prove that all the near and close associates of Shri Amit Shah since 8th Nov till today are engaged into exchange business. There is a big queue outside their office and residence for conversion of black money into white at a discounted rate of 37%, people have queued up outside their office and residence. One has to go without identity with at least a sum of Rs. 1 Crore which will be counted by the employees and a bag containing Rs. 63 lakhs of valid denomination would be handed over.

I could have easily parted with that video but as I know you, you will punish those standing in queue rather than booking those persons engaged in the business who are near and dear to Mr. Amit Shah. However, I will show the video to two or three senior journalists and intimate you about the same so that you can cross check and verify the genuineness of my statement from the journalists.

One who knows you would refuse to accept that the ban that you imposed on district co-operative banks yesterday was after you received an information that large scale irregularities and illegalities were committed at that level. Even your enemy would respect your ability, capacity and intelligence. One thing is certain that such an important aspect could not have been out of your mind. I for one know very well that you will not act unless a complete blue print of your action is in your mind. All pros and cons of your action would very much be alive in your mind before you act.

This in my respectful submission was permitted to be done in Gujarat because all district co-operative banks are controlled by people committed to BJP. These banks right from 9 PM on 8/11/2016 till 5 AM on 9/11/2016 exchanged Rs.500 and Rs.1000 currency notes against smaller denomination. You had through RBI called for the details of exact cash with denominations from all banks of the country on 08/11/2016. You yourself get it verified the veracity of my above statement. I assure you that if I am proved wrong I will tender a public apology.

To weed out any doubt in the mind of people of India that sharks and whales have been let off and that your dear and near industrialists were intimated well in advance about demonetization, you should inform the people of India by disclosure on the official website of Government of India about disclosure of above 1 Crore. I am sure that not one chairman or MD or director of first 300 fortune companies of India would make a disclosure and if they don’t than my allegations stands proved.

I saw people hungry and thirsty standing in queue for Rs. 4000 and small deposits but I did not find a single Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volvo, Porsche or Range Rover outside any bank or any owner of the said vehicle in a queue either for withdrawal or deposit of money. In your opinion possibly the black money was hoarded only by those people in queue either at the ATM or with bank but not with owners of vehicles mentioned above.

The people of this country would also like to know that apart from those fortune 300 industrialists how much money builders, contractors more particularly contractors who have been awarded government contracts, miners who are more particularly involved in iron ore mining, other industrialists and above all politicians and bureaucrats have deposited the money. Unless the people of this country have the above information as to who has deposited what amount, the allegation that the hoarders of 50% of black money i.e. those 10-12 like industries have been blessed by you by prior intimation will stand proved.

Moreover, at least poor and helpless people who have stood outside the bank in queue for petty amount would like to know what is the amount of deposit made by those 10-12 industries whom you allotted the land worth more than 1 lakh crores and who did not generate between themselves employment worth 7000 people. The publication of deposits on website would also throw light as to who are the persons who have deposited 300 to 400 crores and what action Income Tax department would take if they deposits either do not match with the return or known source of Income. I request you to also inquire the purchase of gold & diamonds sold on 7th and 8th before 8pm and by whom. This will enable people to think as to why few top notch needed purchase of huge amount of gold and diamonds.

Be kind and gracious enough to share the aforesaid information on the official website of the government of India so that people of this country may judge whether demonetization is for larger good of the country or for the benefit directly to you, your loved ones and your party workers.

Sincerely yours,

YatinOza

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