The Money That Wasn’t

blackBy Astha Anand

Money is honey my little sonny the rich man’s words are funny!

This old adage very clearly tells what money is; money, a major factor, around which our lives revolves and so does our economies. As currency replaced the barter system, with convenience accompanied corruption. The money being handled by sophisticated banking systems that promised transparency also got siphoned away to places where least questioning can be done, to the perilous realm of black money. Black money or “Kaala Dhan”, the illegal and undeclared money to evade taxes, the different estimates of the quantum of black money range between $500 to $1,500 billion. The place where this money majorly rests i.e. Swiss bank revealed India has more black money than rest of the world.

According to White Paper on Black Money in India report, published in May 2012, Swiss National Bank estimates that the total amount of deposits in all Swiss banks, at the end of 2010, by citizens of India were CHF 1.95 billion (INR 9,295 crore, US$ 2.1 billion). Wanchoo Committee report pointed out, that black money was a serious threat to the national economy and it was an undisputed fact that there was considerable black money in circulation, which was concealed and outside the disclosed trading channels, largely the product of black market transactions and tax evasion. There was a parallel economy which had grown in size and dimension and even on a conservative estimate ran into thousands of crores.

It is alleged that Indian economy is afloat on black money, dishonest industrialists, scandalous politicians and corrupt IAS, IRS, IPS officers have deposited in foreign banks their illegal personal accounts an amount which is about 13 times larger than the country’s foreign debt. With this amount 45 crore poor people can get Rs 1,00,000 each. Then ,why is India still tagged as a  poor country ?

With the brightest minds of India being secret flag bearers of black money, how can we expect a country to prosper? Black money was one of the major issues debated during the 15th Lok Sabha elections. Many political parties insisted on bringing back the black money, but is there any way out to bring this money back?

Though it is a slow and gradual process, which involves a number of steps to be taken, starting with an initiative by the Indian government. Noted jurist and former law minister Ram Jethmalani along with many other well known citizens filed a Writ Petition (Civil) No. 176 of 2009 in the Supreme Court of India seeking the court’s directions to help bring back black money stashed in tax havens abroad and initiate efforts to strengthen the governance framework to prevent further creation of black money.

In January 2011, the (SC) asked why the names of those who have stashed money in the Liechtenstein Bank have not been disclosed. The court argued that the government should be more forthcoming in releasing all available information on what it called a “mind-boggling” amount of money that is believed to be held illegally in foreign banks. The SC on 4 July 2011, ordered the appointment of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) headed by former SC judge BP Jeevan Reddy to act as a watch dog and monitor investigations dealing with the black money. This body would report to the SC directly and no other agency will be involved in this. The two judge bench observed that the failure of the government to control the phenomenon of black money is an indication of weakness and softness of the government.

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