Does the Modi government really want to curb the flow of black money in India?
So far, the Special Investigation Team formed in June 2014 by the government to unearth black money in the country has submitted five reports to the Supreme Court. Each one has provided some analysis and recommendations to curb the black money economy.
In its latest report, the SIT has recommended a total ban on cash transactions above Rs 3,00,000 and restricting cash holding with individuals to not more than Rs 15 lakh to curb the use and proliferation of black money in the economy.
Missing the main ingredient
But despite submitting five reports to the Supreme Court, the SIT has deliberately ignored the most important field where the black money is used - donations to the political parties and their use in the election campaigns.
In December 2014, the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR) had submitted a report to the government-formed SIT. The report said that India's major political parties fund themselves largely with unaccounted money.
With its analysis of Income Tax Returns of national political parties between Financial Year 2005 and FY13, the ADR proved that the total income of parties from unknown sources of income amounted to Rs 4,368.75 crore. That turned out to be 72.98% of the total income of national parties.
The report also said there has been an extraordinary growth in assets declared by candidates (contesting elections) shown in their self-declared affidavits submitted during their nomination for the 2009 and 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In all, 165 re-elected MPs have shown a total increase in immovable assets of Rs 1,232.43 crore or a 137% increase.
The report also indicted the BJP and a few regional parties for not submitting their expenditure statements for the Karnataka Assembly Elections held in 2013, on time. The deadline was 22 July 2013, but the report was only submitted in December 2014.
If the government-appointed SIT were serious about curbing black money, it would have recommended ways to make donations to political parties accountable.
The BJP is the leader of the current ruling dispensation. It isn't difficult for anyone to understand that a party that benefits from unaccounted money itself would never want to talk any serious action against it.
This is exactly why the SIT doesn't mention the issue of usage of black money by political parties in the country.
This is despite the fact that the BJP government has hounded non-government organisations that receive foreign funds, accusing them of indulging in anti-national activities.
But the party's double standards were exposed when it was indicted along with its rival party Congress by the Delhi High court for receiving foreign funds in violation of provisions of Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
Keeping the rhetoric going
Let's not forget the fact that the NDA government came to power riding on the rhetoric of bringing back black money within 100 days. If we believe the government's numbers, as much as Rs 80 lakh crore worth of black money was stashed abroad in 2014.
So far, in the two years it has been in power, the government has succeeded in getting only Rs 3,770 crore worth of declaration from 300 people.
The possibility of getting back the remaining amount is next to impossible.
But the government wants to keep the rhetoric going. And its SIT is just a tool generating hype through media to keep the narrative of black money alive and in favour of the government.
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.
Edited by Aleesha Matharu
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