Mainstream, VOL LII, No 46, November 8, 2014
Action More Important than Disclosure of Names
Sunday 9 November 2014, by
In the midst of the debate on the illegal foreign account holders, the names of those who were given amnesty a few days before the debate, have been forgotten. Apparently, they are from both the main political parties, the Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Otherwise, the shouting would not have stopped in such a short time. One other noticeable point is that there has not been even a cursory mention of how the account holders came to accumulate so much money and what steps have been taken to stop the practice.
Stacking money abroad is a crime. Therefore, all those who have hidden money in foreign countries are guilty. The government’s hesitation in making their names public is not under-standable. Obviously, both the Congress and BJP are guilty and they do not want their image to be damaged if and when the names are out. Both parties have a lot to hide.
The fact remains that the political parties, which spend crores of rupees during elections, have foreign countries as a safe haven for accumulating the illicit money. In this way, they not only escape public attention but also the amount of large sums which they would have otherwise paid in the shape of taxes.
The people in India should, however, thank Germany which put the names in the public domain. One German bank got hold of the list of names unwittingly and handed those over to the Government of India. No intelligence agency in the country can take credit for the list. Why Germany gave the names is not understandable. If it was a pressure of sorts on New Delhi, it has worked.
The public was understandably up in arms when it came to know that 800 odd people have money abroad. There must be many other names which have not come out. The amount of money stacked abroad is said to be six lakh crores of rupees.
I recall that when I was India’s High Commissioner at London, the stringency of money had made New Delhi to write to its envoys to raise money from the Indians settled abroad. I also made a fervent appeal to the people of Indian origin. But I was surprised when the German ambassador told me that the Indians had so much money deposited in the Swiss banks that they could easily finance many Five-Year Plans.
In any case, the government has now names of foreign account holders. They were reportedly received many months ago when the Congress Government headed by Dr Manmohan Singh was at the helm of affairs. Because of political considerations, it took no action against anyone. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who promised to book the guilty in one hundred days of his regime, has begun action only after seven months of coming to power. The Manmohan Singh Government sat over the names which were received during its regime. Why no action was taken has not been explained by the Congress spokespersons. The uncomfor-table questions are never answered. The disclosure of names is in the same category.
The Modi Government too has sacred cows. It has preferred to name some companies in the corporate sector to others. The three names announced from the corporate sector are probably of those companies which the Modi Government has not been able to mulct. Also, the concentration on the corporate sector is meant to divert the people’s attention from the political world. The effort is to convince the society that the illicit money is the doing of the corporate sector. This may be true because the money spent on elections, running into thousands of crores, comes from the corporate sector. But this is the black money, earned through illicit means. The politicians, whether in or out of power, have to bear the guilt. They look to the other side than when the corrupt means are used to accumulate money.
That Modi would fight against the vested interests, who have polluted the politics, was expected, particularly when he talked about cleanliness from every public platform. But unfortunately he has not kept his promise He has made businessmen and bureaucrats careful in going about their corrupt practices. But the corruption has in no way lessened.
Even now it is not too late to retrieve his reputation if Modi puts all the names on the net. Who among them can be prosecuted depends on the evidence gathered. The disclosure of names will at least absolve him from the responsibility of hiding corruption from the people.
This may not be an instance of corruption but it is quiet appalling. Some 3000 crores of rupees are estimated to have been spent on fire crackers during the Diwali. The money, again in crores, during the Dussehra, is separate from this amount.
A country where one-third of the population goes to bed without food is a sad spectacle of insensitivity to the conditions the common man faces. I have not found the activists coming once on the streets protesting. The society is indifferent because those who lead the voice and mould the public opinion are a part of the problem. They can hardly offer a solution.
The author is a veteran journalist renowned not only in this country but also in our neighbouring states of Pakistan and Bangladesh where his columns are widely read. His website is www.kuldipnayar.com