Dehradun: Former Uttarakhand chief minister Harish Rawat on Thursday said the suicide by a transporter after consuming poison at the BJP office should open everyone's eyes to the impact of demonetisation and GST on the lower-middle class.
Prakash Pandey, a resident of Haldwani, had consumed poison before state agriculture minister Subodh Uniyal last week during a Janata Darbar programme and had recounted his story before him.
"The death of Haldwani transporter Prakash Pandey is sad and an eye-opener. All political parties should focus on the remark he made after consuming poison that he took the extreme step because of demonetisation and GST. It shows the dangerous impact of these measures on the lower middle class," he told reporters.
Noting that the lower-middle class in the state had weak economic foundations and was the most vulnerable to steps such as demonetisation and GST, Rawat demanded that the Uttarakhand government conduct a study on the impact of the note ban and the tax by a highly qualified expert.
The transporter had fallen sick during the darbar after consuming poison and was rushed to the hospital where he died three days later on January 9.
He, while recounting his story, had said that he consumed poison because of suffering losses in his business due to demonetisation and GST, and was not in a position to repay his loans.
"Pandey was a man from the lower middle class, struggling to support his family. His suicide shows the extreme steps people of his class can be forced to take in the wake of the drastic measures taken by the Centre," he said.
The BJP government in the state has already ordered a magisterial probe into the death.
Reiterating his charge that development had come to a standstill in Uttarakhand, Rawat said that whenever the issue was raised by the opposition, the current dispensation "begins chanting about empty coffers".
"The excuse offered by the government that Harish Rawat left them with empty coffers cannot work anymore. It is 10 months since they came to power. Why are the coffers still empty?" the Congress leader asked.
Claiming that there was a fall in revenues in all sectors including mining, forest and liquor, ever since the BJP took over the reins of the state, he said that if the government's coffers were empty, it was only because they did not have the political will needed for development.
Harish Rawat also hit out at the Trivendra Singh Rawat government for asking madarasas to install a portrait of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"Why should madarssas be forced to install the portrait of the PM. Madarsas are supposed to impart religion-based education to children and such an order cannot be imposed on them.
"It is like forcing a centre of Sanskrit education in Jammu to put up a photo of Sheikh Abdullah or Mufti Mohammad Sayeed," the former chief minister said.
Madarsas in Uttarakhand recently said no to a government order asking them to install a portrait of Modi, citing the tenets of Islam which prohibit them from installing pictures of any living organism not to speak of putting up that of a political leader.