Amidst attacks by the opposition on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's demonetisation drive, Canada has given a thumbs up to the move. The country's minister for Infrastructure who is leading the business delegation at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit, says the demonetisation step needs to be commended.
Speaking exclusively to India Today, minister Amarjeet Sohi, one of the four Sikh faces in the Justin Trudeau cabinet, said, "Any country that takes steps to control flow of black money and corruption needs to be commended. So we commend the steps taken by PM Modi in order to make sure there is fairness in the system"
Sohi added that the issues faced by the Indo-Canadian community post declaration of old `500 and `1000 rupee notes as illegal tender, are being addressed. Adding to his minister's comments, Canada's high commissioner stressed that cash woes have faced by some diplomatic missions are for a greater good.
"Like other missions in India we face similar challenges whether it be mission operations, tourists visiting from Canada, even diplomats or myself. But we take a step back and we commend government for taking very bold steps in addressing underground economy, counterfeit currency,and corruption. And no initiative along those significant lines can be implemented in smooth and simple manner," stressed Canadian envoy Nadir Patel.
The opposition mood on demonetisation, and Mamata Banerjee's all-out war against the Centre have meanwhile put question marks on the timely implementation of the tax reforms . Asked about the delay in rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime in India and impact on investor sentiments, Minister Sohi sought to dismiss any adverse impact on bilateral trade.
"Trade and investment relationships take long time to materialise. So few months delay here and there is not going to impact our relationship," he said adding that "we really value steps taken by PM Modi on liberalisation of trade and barriers and making foreign investments easier into India."
Born in Sangrur of Punjab, Amarjeet Sohi's family moved to Canada in 1981. But in 1988 during a visit to Bihar for land rights theatre programme, he was accused of being a khalistani terrorist with alleged links to naxals and LTTE. The 24-year-old Sohi was lodged in prison for 21 months under stringent TADA act ,but charges were eventually dropped for lack of any evidence and upon intervention of international agencies. He returned to Canada and went from driving a truck to being elected a city councillor.
He finally rose to the job of the infrastructure and communities minister in the diverse Trudeau cabinet in 2016. Asked if he has any hard feelings for what transpired in the past, Sohi underlines that he loves India where his sister and extended family and friends still stay. "What happened to me in 80s was reflection of widespread human rights violations of that time and every society evolves.
Our commitment to human rights and social justice is strong .And I am so glad to be representing Canada in a country I was born," Sohi replied.