Advani’s Jan Chetna Yatra

Black money is a big concern and this concern was raised by veteran BJP leader LK Advani in his Jan Chetna Yatra. The Yatra wasn’t a big success but following that Mr Advani moved an adjournment motion against the Government in the Lok Sabha which was swiftly defeated by the Government. The debate on black money was a bit disappointing for me as it came to a very timid ending. Plus the response from both the Government and the Opposition wasn’t very encouraging. They were indulging in scoring political points instead of addressing the issue. Only a few looked really committed to the cause.

The first issue which was put on the table was the one concerning the revealing of the names of all those who had a Swiss Bank Account. The Government turned down the request and rightly so. The Government has got information of these accounts by means of international treaties which it signed alongside many countries. These treaties are governed by strict secrecy laws. The Government cannot make public the names of the account holders. If it will do so to fulfil the political appetite of a hungry Opposition, then it will violate an international treaty and won’t get any further information regarding accounts held by Indians in Swiss banks thus bringing to an end India’s search for its lost billions in the form of tax evasion. Naming the ones who feature on that list is not the solution to the problem. Effective measures need to be enacted to punish those who’ve committed the crime.

Secondly, the list also comprises of the names of a few legitimate account holders. The Government cannot make public the names of all those who have a legitimate bank account overseas. It would violate their privacy. In fact it cannot even make public the names of the illegitimate account holders because of (a) International treaties and secrecy agreements the treaty is governed by (As I stated earlier) (b) Because of citizen’s right to privacy. Recently a court in India instructed Delhi Traffic Police to stop posting the photographs of all those who broke traffic rules on Delhi Traffic Police’s Facebook page as it amounted to breach of privacy.

The second issue which was raised was regarding the amount of black money stashed abroad and the size of the Indian Black or Parallel or Shadow Economy. Organizations including the BJP Task Force have come up with estimates on this but it’s something which is based on assumptions rather than on facts and numbers. The Government has no record of this. It just has the names of those who have Swiss bank accounts, not the amount of money held inside them. The Government has assigned the job of predicting the amount of black money stashed abroad to a number of financial organizations operating under its umbrella. Mr Pranab Mukherjee, the Hon’ble Finance Minster, said that India entered into a pact with Switzerland in which they assured the Indian Government of prospective information in relation to Swiss Bank Accounts starting 1st April 2011 but denied them retrospective information in relation to bank accounts of Indians in their country. I side with the Government on this particular point too.

The third issue was regarding the steps taken by the Government to tackle this issue. I would like to criticize the Government a bit on this. Even though Mr Mukherjee highlighted the work done by the Government in relation to black money but I wasn’t convinced. Mr Mukherjee even promised Mr LK Advani a white paper on black money but that isn’t enough. He quoted financial experts who said that the Indian Government has made a huge progress within no time on this matter but the fact remains that there are serious loopholes. Till now the Government should have clearly categorized the names of the account holders under two categorizes, legitimate and illegitimate. The Government should have tried to analyze the accounts of all the illegitimate account holders. What kind of wealth (tax evaded money, ill gotten money, money earned by indulging in illegal businesses) could be inside that account? I am sorry to say that the Government hasn’t done that. The Government needs to expedite the process and progress immensely. The UPA Government cannot escape the blame by saying that the NDA during its regime did nothing about it. The UPA Government is a sovereign government with a great set of duties on its shoulders. It needs to operate with efficiency and honesty. It shouldn’t try to look out for an escapist route. They’ve been elected to address issues like these. If they’ll fail to do so then they’ll also be shown the door just like the NDA was by the electorate of India.

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