It was year 2011, when WikiLeaks released a list of Indian black money hoarders. In the same year, Anil Harish, one of India’s best minds on tax matters, spoke at length on the impact of hacking of nearly 700 accounts, held by powerful Indians at HSBC, Geneva. The list released by WikiLeaks created uproar and it has been found that both resident and non-resident Indians are equally guilty. Charges included that of tax evasion while the hoarders chose to put away their wealth in the banks offshore. Since then, BJP and its supporters made this as an agenda against Congress and is using it as a main topic in their election campaign. After coming in power at the centre, BJP has changed it stand and has taken a U-turn on black money.
After it was exposed that more than 1000 Indian’s account is there in Swiss Bank, just day before Delhi Assembly result, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said new names of Indians with Swiss bank accounts have come up and their veracity will be checked while 60 prosecutions have already been launched. A fresh HSBC list revealed by an international body of journalists named more Indians, including big corporates and political leaders. Now question here arises, why to wait for additional names; when you have already done prosecutions of others, then take action against them. Keep it going and start a parallel investigation with the new list. There is no point; if you delay in taking action then you are giving them time to relocate their money. It’s little wonder that the financial analysts are placing their bet on the final figure of the black money. An estimated $2 trillion is sitting snug in the banks abroad, mostly in Swiss Bank. And the holders of this money, obviously billionaires, are steadily climbing the global charts of ‘influential personalities’ day by day.
BJP won with a clear majority in Lok Sabha elections 2014, promising ‘Acche Din Aane Wale Hain’. This term was banged and hammered in every advertisement even a small child relates Acche Din with Narendra Modi, without even understanding what it means. So have ‘Acche Din’ finally arrived? The best and diplomatic answer for this question would be both yes and no. As they say, a single misdeed diminishes the value of hundred golden deeds. One thing that could possibly have hit the credibility of Modi government hard was the issue of bringing back black money. And looking at the current scenario, it has precisely overshadowed the good work of Modi government. The world’s largest democracy saw a ray of hope in Modi, when told that lakh of crores of black money stashed away in foreign banks will be brought back to India. Did it happen? No. These black money holders’ names started getting leaked much before BJP government established in the centre or they made it election issue. List of Black Money holders in Swiss Bank accounts have been leaked by WikiLeaks and published on their websites.
Jaitley said that the tax department has launched 60 prosecutions from an earlier list of Indian account holders in a Swiss branch of HSBC bank and most of the names revealed in Monday’s list are known to the government. He was reacting to a story published in one of the dailies, which said that 1,195 Indian names figure in the HSBC list with a total balance of Rs. 25,420 crore, as part of an investigation by an international body of journalists. Many of the names have already been disclosed, but there are some new additions, including that of prominent corporate leaders, politicians, NRIs and others. Many of these accounts could be legitimate. Jaitley said that he had met top Swiss authorities, including Switzerland’s Finance Minister, in Davos last month and it was agreed there that admission by assessees would be considered additional evidence to seek details.
The Indian names revealed on Monday are part of a global list of account holders in HSBC’s Swiss private banking arm and their balances for the year 2006-07. They include persons from over 200 countries with total balance of over $100 billion. The 1,195 Indian names are nearly double the 628 names that figured in an earlier HSBC list that was shared by the French government with India in 2011. Modi’s election manifesto was the war that his party waged on black money. During the tenure of the UPA government, scams rolled out one after another, exposing way too many influential personalities who had made a quick buck. However, the saga of Indian politicians stacking their booty in the Swiss Bank (among other financial institutions) isn’t limited to the past decade alone. A penurious India has been struggling alteration of its image from a country that was ‘developing’ for a long time to an economic ‘super power.’ According to World Bank reports, poverty in India is waiting to reach another level, with an estimated 11.8% of total population living below the line of poverty and earning less than $1.25 per day in 2014. The only happy thing is the fact that poverty has consistently reduced over the past few years. However, if the black money heads back to the country where it belongs to, then it will be more than India’s GDP.
The largest number of foreign depositors in Swiss Bank is reportedly Indians. If this can change, the country is bound to witness prosperous days ahead. The actions taken by Narendra Modi since his cabinet took office are commendable, but at the same time questionable too. At the time when the government promised achche din, the railway fares were increased by a considerable 14%, but since then the price of petrol and diesel is on a downhill. Passing through a grim situation of geopolitical threats by China and Pakistan, add to it the ongoing period of financial crunch; Modi decided to assign the two most crucial portfolios to one man, Arun Jaitley.
The government used an olive branch in the past to 700 HSBC account holders who kept an undisclosed amount in their accounts aboard. Nearly, 100 members made amends for it while the rest resisted the process. Apart from HSBC and Swiss Bank, Liechtenstein and British Virgin Islands are also offering safe havens for black money hoarders from various countries, including India and China.
Let’s see, how long BJP manages to play with words, without any action on Black money…
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