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Understanding Black Money: Why Jaitley needs to do more

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By Harshmeet Singh

The awakening of society towards the issue of black money can be credited as much to the media as to the innumerable agitations over the past 5 years.

After a long wait, tough talking Arun Jaitley has finally announced some stringent laws to deal with the offenders of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. According to the proposed law, a rigorous imprisonment of up to 10 years along with a 300% tax penalty will be awarded to those failing to disclose foreign assets.

Apart from proposing severe consequences for the offenders, the FM also stated that the Government was in the process of devising a plan to encourage voluntary disclosure by allowing people to repatriate their black money by paying the appropriate taxes.

Albeit experts and agencies differ in their estimation of the total Black money stashed in foreign banks by the Indian residents, all of them peg the amount to be a significant proportion of our GDP.

black money

How Black Money originates

Contrary to the common belief, Switzerland is fast losing its position as the ‘favourite’ destination for India’s Black money. With all eyes on the Swiss Banks, the depositors are now eyeing safer destinations. A number of individuals have resorted to round tripping to convert their unaccounted money. Round tripping essentially refers to Indian money going abroad by illegal routes, such as Hawala and then coming back to the country in the form of investments or remittances. Tax havens such as Mauritius have attracted huge funds over the past decade, owing to Round Tripping. While it may seem like an easier route to bring back the black money, the evasion of tax at the first instance causes huge losses to the exchequer.

GMR, Reliance Communication also round trip

Surprisingly, a number of listed companies have also come in the net of allegations of round tripping, with SEBI issuing notices to Reliance Communication, GMR and United Spirits.

Circulating money via Villages

Even though the phrases ‘black money’ and ‘stashed abroad’ are usually taken in a single breath, the amount of black money circulating within the borders of the country can’t be underestimated. One of the most common, yet unnoticed ways of circulating black money is through private money lenders in villages. With nationwide financial inclusion still a far off realization, the unbanked villages in India number more than 4 lakh. Lack of credit facilities forces the farmers to take loans from local moneylenders at exorbitant interest rates of 25% – 30%. Such mechanisms provide a fertile base for the black money holders to circulate their illegal or unaccounted cash without raising anyone’s eyebrows.

The Government, by its own admission, is trying its best to bring all the black money holders to the fore. One hopes that probes in matters such as HSBC leak list don’t take the ‘eternal’ path and are fast tracked to keep pace with the big promises made.

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AAP’S Media Spend Is Four Times That Of Previous Government: RTI Reply

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP's one year in power in 2016

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Picture of Arvind Kejriwal addressing a rally. Wikimedia Commons
  • The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore
  • The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government
  • A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016

The AAP government has spent an average of Rs 70.5 crore annually in the past three years on advertisements — four times more than the previous government’s expenditure on print, electronic and outdoor advertising, according to an RTI reply.

In the first year after assuming office in February 2015, the current government spent Rs 59.9 crore on advertisements, Rs 66.3 crore the next year and Rs 85.3 crore up to December 31, 2017, the Directorate of Information and Publicity (DIP) said in reply to an RTI application by IANS.

The average annual expenditure of the AAP government on advertisements from April 2015 to December 2017 was Rs 70.5 crore. The Congress’ average was Rs 17.4 crore in the last five years of its rule (2008-2013).

Also Read: AAP welcomes BJP’s stand on inter-faith marriages

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers.

For instance, when the AAP government completed its first and second anniversary in 2016 and 2017, leading newspapers in the capital carried full-page advertisements, highlighting the achievements of the government.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons
The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there. Wikimedia Commons

In the run-up to celebrating its three years in office, the government in the first two weeks of February carried advertisements flashing pictures of the Chief Minister or other ministers. The highlights included the inauguration of community toilets, excellence awards distribution for students, a government meeting on “smart gaon”, and invitation of applications for scholarship schemes.

The AAP government’s spending on advertisements increased by about 300 percent compared to the Congress government.

Also Read: Blow for Kejriwal: EC recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

But the average advertisement rate charged by a leading English newspaper, comparing the Congress government and AAP government periods, has increased by about 17 percent, according to DAVP.

For the same period, the average rate charged by another leading English newspaper has increased by about 35 percent.

A 2017 Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report found that the Delhi government had spent 86 percent of the total budget for its media campaign celebrating the completion of AAP’s one year in power in 2016.

According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons
According to the DIP, the expenditure includes, among others, advertisements with photos of the Chief Minister and other ministers in newspapers and hoardings, commercial spots on TV and radio, and tender notices published in newspapers. Wikimedia Commons

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements.

Last year, the government came under an opposition attack after Lt. Governor Anil Baijal asked the AAP to cough up Rs 97 crore spent on advertisements, allegedly to promote the party instead of the government. The LG order was based on a report by the Committee on Content Regulation in Government Advertising (CCRGA).

Also Read: 5 Years of AAP: How Society Has Been Backstabbed by ChandaChor Kejriwal

The regulatory authority asked the Delhi government to assess the expenditure in issuing “those advertisements/advertorials in which the name of the Aam Aadmi Party is mentioned” and other factors.

The Delhi government approached the High Court and the matter is currently pending there.

Delhi government spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said he has “no comments” to offer on the increase in expenditure.

The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons
The auditor pulled up the government for using the name of the party in the advertisements. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Congress President Ajay Maken said: “They (AAP) are using the power of advertisements to put pressure on TV (channels) and newspapers. They are doing it ruthlessly”.

BJP MLA and Delhi Assembly Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta termed the government’s spending on advertisements as “irrational”. “Misuse of public money in this way is completely unjustified and unethical,” Gupta told IANS. (IANS)