India currency demonetisation
Indian banks and cash machines have been witnessing crowds following the government's demonetisation move Amit Dave/Reuters

The opposition political parties have been tearing into the Indian government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the administration's move to demonetise the country's highest currency denominations. The Rajya Sabha (Upper House) witnessed a stormy gathering on the first day when the assembly convened for the winter session on Wednesday, 16 November.

With the government struggling to ramp up its efforts to tackle the situation, Modi's political adversaries accused him of creating "financial anarchy" by abruptly declaring that Rs 500 (£6) and Rs 1,000 (£12) denominations would not be legal tender.

"You have created financial anarchy in this country with your decision. Which law allows you to stop us from withdrawing our own money from the banks," said Anand Sharma, the leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

"Everyone claims to be a surgeon today, without ever performing a surgery. Everything is a surgical strike nowadays. An atmosphere has been created by [the] government where questioning the government has become the parameter to decide one's nationalism", he added.

The week-long crowds outside the banks and cash machines show the government was not prepared to handle the matter efficiently, Sharma said.

India has witnessed turbulence in the past week following the government's demonetisation move, aimed at bringing down corruption, counterfeit currency and illegal money laundering. While withdrawal of money from banks has been rationed, cash machines spew only a limited amount rendering a shortage of notes in an economy run largely on cash.

Defending the government's step, the ruling party's Piyush Goyal said: "For the first time, the honest have been honoured and the dishonest have been troubled," adding that the move has "taught the corrupt a strong lesson".

Another prominent opposition leader, Sitaram Yechury, questioned the government's logic to selectively demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes saying only 6% of "black money" or unaccounted money is hoarded in cash while the vast majority is in circulation. "Why are you agonising the people? Is 'I control your personal life' the message? What else it is if not a fascist message?

"People can't treat their dear ones in hospital. Immediately, till alternate arrangements are made, allow these notes to be transacted by all. The PM himself said it will take 50 days to do alternate arrangements."