White paper? Govt needs to bring back the black money

The recent debate in Parliament on black money turned out to be a damp squib. Nothing concrete has emerged out of the debate, except a promise from the finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee that the government would soon bring a white paper on black money.

What is the use of a white paper, if the government would not disclose the names of account holders who stashed away their ill gotten money in foreign banks? We cannot expect the government to divulge the details of account holders in the proposed white paper.

It has already refused to give the particulars of black money in the Supreme Court and Parliament, taking shelter behind some bilateral treaties. What the people  want to see is bringing the concealed money back to the nation and not white paper on black money. They no longer want to hear the government’s ‘sermons’ on bilateral treaties.

 For unearthing illegal wealth hidden in well known tax havens abroad, the government has to take strong actions. It should consider imposing trade curbs on non-cooperating nations.

The licence granted to the branches of foreign banks to function here should be cancelled, if these banks don’t disclose information about Indian account holders. But the cardinal question is whether the government has the political will to apply such pressure.

Black money is the money sent abroad for safe custody in foreign banks, which thrive by maintaining secrecy about their account holders and it is brought back, when needed, through the hawala route. These are clear cases of breaking law of the county. It is the duty and responsibility of the government to prosecute these offenders of law. But the government is dilly-dallying on the matter. This lackadaisical attitude of the authorities makes the people feel that the government is not serious in dealing with these offenders of law.

We all know how the government has dealt with the case against Hassan Ali Khan. It has created an impression in the minds of the people that the government has something to hide in this matter or not serious in bringing the nation’s wealth back to the country.

 In fact, the government has failed to read the pulse of the people. It should understand that the poor and middle classes are reeling under the havoc caused by black money.

Sky-rocketing land prices

The real estate sector is now fully controlled by the black money holders. As a result, prices of land are sky-rocketing in every part of the county, including even in villages and small towns. Now it has become unaffordable even for middle class people to purchase a piece of land even in small towns and put up a roof over their heads. There is a direct connection between growth of land mafia and the pumping of hawala money.

 The Supreme Court has repeatedly reprimanded the government for a lethargic and lacklustre investigation into Indians holding undeclared money in foreign bank accounts. The court has become the only source of hope of the people. In a historical order passed in July last, on a petition filed by eminent jurist Ram Jethmalani and others, seeking directions to the government to track black money, the Supreme Court appointed a high-level Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former supreme court judge, B P Jeevan Reddy to monitor the investigation and steps being taken to bring back black money.

The response of the government to this order, was not positive. It failed to understand the mood of the people and was insensitive to the aspirations of the people. Instead of implementing the order which has caught the imaginations of millions of people of the nation ,the government chose to file a petition in the Supreme Court, seeking to review its order in this case, saying that the order amounts to judicial over-reach into the functioning of the executive.

Of course, the government is well within its powers to file a petition to review the orders. But the moot point is should the government be seeking an amendment to an order which is beneficial to the people at large and the nation on technical grounds? By filing the review petition, what message does it want to convey to the people? No political party, neither in the government nor in the opposition. has expressed any opinion on this. It must be noted that the Supreme Court stepped in and constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), only after the government failed to take prompt, proper and effective steps against people who have illegally amassed wealth in foreign banks. It has become a practice in our country that the investigation agencies do their job only when they are rapped on the knuckles by the Supreme Court or high courts.

Instead of giving excuses or sermons on bilateral agreements, the people want the government to implement the Supreme Court’s July 4, 2011 order in the black money case expeditiously after withdrawing the review petition. Will the government do so?

(The author is a Kerala-based freelance writer)

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