November 02, 2014

PM’s Hollow Claims on Bringing Back Black Money

ONE after another, all the election promises made by Prime Minister Modi during his whirlwind nationwide campaign, in a corporate jet, are turning out to be completely hollow – full of bluster and no substance. On earlier occasions, we had exposed the feature of this Modi government with regard to its so-called `economic miracles’, achhe din aanewale hain etc etc. Now it is the turn of the prime minister’s bluster concerning the claim that `his government’ will ensure that all the illegal black money stashed away in foreign banks in financial `havens’ will be brought back to the country and used to improve the livelihood of the people. The Supreme Court had rapped the Modi government on its knuckles when it produced three names in return for the information sought by the apex court in a case on black money it has been hearing for the past five years. These were the same names that the erstwhile UPA-2 government had made public. On October 28, the Supreme Court “ordered” the central government to disclose on October 29 all the names being investigated for alleged stashing away of black money abroad and questioned why the government was “holding a protective umbrella for these people”. Throwing a spanner in the case being heard for the past five years, a bench led by Chief Justice of India, H L Dattu, directed the government to hand over, in sealed cover, on October 29, the lists of all the names received from foreign governments, irrespective of the nature of treaties between the countries. The court order came as a surprise since it was hearing a fresh application by the government for, in fact, restricting the disclosure. “Don’t give us two or three names but all the names. Give us the entire list… whatever you have got from Germany, France, Switzerland and other countries. What you have disclosed could be a tip of the iceberg. This is going to be the first step now – disclose everything. We can’t leave the issue completely to you (government). It may never happen during our time,” said the bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana P Desai and Madan B Lokur. Thus compelled, the Modi government placed a list of names of 627 Indian account holders in the HSBC Bank, Geneva. The apex court also rapped the government when it tried to give the excuse that due to the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaties (DTAT) with other countries, India cannot share information about tax payers to authorities other than relevant tax authorities or with courts; India cannot make information public announcing names about whom information has been received and India cannot disclose names of individuals against whom prosecutable evidence is not found. The apex court opined that none of these conditions prohibit the government from giving this information in a sealed cover to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was set-up on the court’s order. The sealed envelope that the government was forced to submit as a consequence, containing 627 names was not opened by this SC Bench headed by the chief justice. They have been passed on to the chairman of the SIT, a former Supreme Court judge. Stating unambiguously that the apex court will decide on the manner of investigation and disclosing of the names, it said that the government did not have to choose the manner and the mode of probe into the matter and all that it needed to do was to place everything before the court, which may also rope in CBI to investigate. The Bench said the court had in 2011 issued orders for complete disclosure of information received from foreign governments and it would hence also take the responsibility of ensuring the case reaches its logical end. “Why do you (government) want to investigate? You don’t have to take the trouble of investigating. Why are you bothered? Why are you holding a protective umbrella for these people? You just pass on all the information to us and we will decide. We can ask even CBI to investigate. We are not helpless. We had passed the original order in 2011 and we will take the responsibility now as well,” it said. When the attorney general argued for a modification of the court’s order saying that the conditions of the DTAT do not permit such information to be made public, the court expressed its strong displeasure at the Modi government’s attempt to have its order modified. “You are trying to re-argue the matter which in our opinion is impermissible. We won’t change even a word of our order. Months after, the new regime at the centre can’t ask for modification of order when it was passed in an open court and accepted by the (then) government,” it said. Clearly indicating that the Modi government was seeking to protect somebody or some interest, the apex court said, “You don’t have to take care of so much of interest of these people. We know what to do.” The court also opined, “We don’t want the money of this country to go to other countries. All this has already been argued by you and the court said everything will have to be disclosed. The court can say give all the information even if confidentiality is breached”. It further said, “We want all the names not one or two or three. Give us the entire information”. All these remarks, unprecedented by the apex court, clearly show that this Modi government is shamelessly trying to protect those who stashed away black monies abroad. The whole country had seen the eagerness and enthusiasm of India Inc. in promoting Modi and acting as his `cheer leaders’ during the election campaign and subsequently even now. They had liberally financed the election campaign in an unprecedented manner. May be, such `protection’ that this Modi government is providing to black money hoarders abroad is part of the “pay back time package” for those who have rendered invaluable financial and material support during the election campaign. This is in total contrast to all the tall promises made by Modi and the BJP during the election campaign. Bringing back black money stashed away in foreign banks was one of the biggest election promises. A selection of the prime minister’s assurances during the election campaign, recalled from media reports are the following: • “People say that if the black money stashed in foreign bank accounts is brought back and distributed amongst the poor in India, then each poor man will pocket Rs 3 lakh each.” • “I have decided if you bless me and give me the opportunity I will bring back all the black money.” • “When we bring back the black money, we will give it to regular salary holders. We must honour their patriotism. Till the time we don’t bring black money, such thefts will continue. So to stop new thefts and such cases, all black money should be brought home to teach one and all a lesson.” • “I will bring back every rupee that is stored away in foreign banks, any which way, and ensure that it is used for the rehabilitation of the poor in the country.” • “LK Advani carried out a yatra at such an old age to bring about awareness about black money stashed away in foreign banks. Baba Ramdev has also taken up the issue, even the BJP is fighting this battle but the Congress is afraid of this fight.” • “There is so much of wealth stored in foreign banks. But, the government at the centre has done nothing to bring back the money. Hence, there are suspicions that the central government too has something to hide. People are going hungry but the government doesn’t care.” Such are the facts of the prime minister’s track record of rhetoric and the reality. Need much else be said regarding the credibility of this government in living up to its poll promises? The poll promises and assurances were meant only to lull the people into believing that the government, under Mr Modi, would be sincere in implementing what they promise. While they are not doing this, they are pursuing their hidden agenda of sharpening communal polarisation as their only way to consolidate the Hindu communal vote bank. This is ‘vote bank politics’ of the worst order that is designed to negate the secular democratic character of the modern Indian Republic by posing serious threats to our social unity and integrity. The pursuit of this diabolic agenda must not be allowed to succeed. In this lies the future of the vast mass of our exploited and oppressed people whose strength of united struggles is the only guarantee to improve the present dismal state of livelihood. (October 29, 2014)