Three years of Narendra Modi-led NDA government has a unique record. It is scam free. So far it has been difficult for fault-finder to spot a taint. Managing one of the world’s largest governing system is not easy. But the resolve to bring probity in the system has apparently paid.
Various steps of the government have put the scamsters in a tight spot. A number of agreements with various countries have blocked channels of rerouting of black money via Mauritius, Cyprus and Singapore. The previously laundered money can now no longer be brought back to India via Mauritius, Singapore and Cyprus routes.
It has done real time transaction data with Switzerland and other European countries. This ensures Swiss banks to share information related to transactions with India from September 2019. This blocks scope of money laundering.
The government also signed the Inter-Government Agreement with the US to implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.
All these agreements enable Indian tax authorities to receive financial account information of Indians from foreign countries on an automatic basis.
Ill-gotten money or tax-evaded savings have come under a comprehensive and deterrent law, the Black Money Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets and Imposition of Tax Act. This provides for stringent penalties and prosecution.
The Income Tax Department has unearthed undisclosed income of Rs. 43,000 crore through investigations between 2014 and 2016, Union Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said on July 2, 2016.
In the biggest ever income (black money) disclosure in 2016, at least Rs 65,250 crore of undisclosed assets were declared in the one-time compliance window, yielding the government Rs 29,362 crore in taxes.
The law on Benaami transaction law not only targets benaami properties but also prevents having such properties. It was enacted 18 years back but had to wait till November 1, 2016 for its implementation by the Modi government. This was stated to be one of the biggest route of parking illicit earnings. The stringent law is being implemented with rigour as enforcement directorate and the income tax department takes several steps to cleanse the system.
The allocation of various mineral blocks through auction has changed the dynamics. Online auctions of coal blocks, spectrum and minerals have been made the norm. No future government will find it easy to change.
That rulers have to be above suspicion has also been ensured through a tougher process of political funding. Some smaller parties had taken this route to amass ill-gotten wealth. The new rule of political funding reducing cash receipts to Rs 2000 and introduction of electoral bonds is aimed at cleaning up political party funding.
The process of cleaning started the day Narendra Modi was sworn in as prime minister. The very day the new government assumed office, it constituted a special investigation team (SIT) under the supervision of Supreme Court to look into the issue of corruption.
The prime minister did not confine his tirade against illicit money to the shores of the country. On September 5, 2016, Modi personally raised the issue of ending safe tax havens in Europe and other countries in the significant G-20 meeting.
This forced the major G-20 countries to wage a war on money laundering, black money and terror funding.
This was possibly just the beginning. The mother of all action was at 8 pm on November 8, 2016. The prime minister announced demonetization of Rs 500 and 1000 currency notes worth Rs 15 lakh crore to bring out black money out of the closets. This electrified the country, led to long queues before banks to change notes. People took the suffering with a stride for the cause of cleansing.
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The income-tax department has identified 18 lakh people, who have made deposits of alleged “unaccounted sum” to explain the deposits. Even many no-frill jan dhan accounts were used to launder the money.
The steps have been praised by international financial organizations. The International Monetary Fund sees now India as a better place to do business. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on May 4, 2017 praised Prime Minister Modi for his efforts to roll out the Goods and Services Act that will integrate indirect taxes in the country and the bankruptcy act. ADB president Takehiko Nakao says Indian economy will grow 7.4 percent this fiscal and 7.6 percent in the next and will have better business friendly environment.
The NDA government’s multifarious efforts have ensured that India has overtaken China as the fastest growing economy and created a business and FDI-friendly atmosphere.
Indeed early into its term, the government ensured replacing the leaky and inefficient welfare delivery system.
The government scaled up direct benefit transfer (DBT) with JAM (jan dhan, adhar and mobile) as its foundations. It targeted 536 schemes across 65 ministries and departments.
The Ujjwala – LPG connection to BPL families, to Ujala – solar lighting, is brightening up the hinterland and making women particularly happy. It is reducing electricity rates and business costs. The three years of Modi are being seen as the beginning of a new era raising hopes and opportunities for the downtrodden.
*Author is a senior journalist based in Delhi. Regularly writes on Socio-political issues.