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Issue No.: 570 | December 2014

The Black Money Hype

Ashok Karnik
Every issue has at least two sides. A wise person examines all sides before coming to a conclusion

Recovery of Black Money is being projected as a solution for our economic ills. Wild claims that if the Black Money is brought back, every Indian could be given Rs. 15 lakh or our medical expenses could be covered for the next 10 years etc., are mind-boggling. It is true that vast amounts are kept by Indians in secret accounts abroad; it is also now possible to get the names of such account holders through international treaties but nobody has worked out a method to bring back the money so secreted. We would be happy if those who have opened accounts abroad are named. Is the mere exposure of names enough to shame the persons concerned to bring back the money? Or, are we empowered to hang them summarily and appropriate the funds for the country? Baba Ramdev made it an election issue by campaigning for recovery of Black Money, making it appear that the mere will to act tough was enough. He put the blame on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) which was not bold enough to point out the impediments in bringing back the Black Money. It appeared that the UPA was hand in glove with the secret account holders and did not want to act against them. That’s how far it had sunk in public esteem and credibility. The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) took advantage of the mealy mouthed approach of the UPA to score propaganda points. The real problem is how to retrieve the black money. Prime Minister Modi and his Finance Minister appear genuinely keen to get the loot back but is that enough? Black Money would fall in two categories: the income on which no tax has been paid and therefore hidden away and the money that is earned through illegal means like extortion, arms trade, drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism etc., (crime money). The first lot can get out by paying the taxes and penalties, the second lot will give flimsy explanations. Do we have the means to deal with the second category? We await legal eagles to draw a road map for us to understand what the Government needs to do and is not doing. Merely exposing the names is not enough although that appears to be the political agenda now. It might not lead us anywhere except satisfy our cherished desire to shame a few big politicians

It is argued by some experts that the Black Money is already back in India, invested in sweet deals like realty, gold and Bollywood. The last is not profitable but the other two are better investments than most in the world. How can we recover what is already in the country? India has signed various treaties for exchange of information (EOI) with 130 countries after international recognition of the dangers of illegal money circulating in the world. Under various names like the Dual Tax Avoidance Act (DTAA), Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA), Competent Authority Agreement (CAA), international treaties have been signed. The one thing common to all of them is that the information so exchanged would not be made public; this is necessary to protect the privacy of the account holder unless he/she is charged with an illegality (not irregularity of tax evasion). This stymies the public anxiety to know the names. Our fanciful hope is that big names in politics would be so exposed. Barring exceptions our hopes may be belied. There may be nothing shameful in most cases as the accounts could be fully legal. Any Indian doing business abroad would open such an account. Only those who have avoided payment of taxes can be hauled up or those few who have no explanation on how they earned the money to stash abroad could be prosecuted. According to international financial experts, about $ 200 bn could be found in the foreign accounts out of which $ 30 bn could be recovered through penal taxation in India. Those who are really guilty of serious offenses will give us a legal run-around for years. Their crime would have to be established before confiscating their loot. Our gains could thus be limited and not astronomical as predicted; that too if very fast and effective taxation measures are put into effect. Courts could come in the way as our judicial system is well-known for delays. Is it then that our high is headed for disillusionment?  

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Other Articles in this Issue

Between Ourselves

Between Ourselves



M. V. Kamath: A Personality Sketch


Remembering Rajaji

The Wit and Wisdom of Rajaji


“I Touch a Sensitive Spot”

C. Rajagopalachari

Rajaji in his ‘Dear Reader’ page, in Swarajya


Remembering Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Rediscovering The Sardar

T. H. Chowdary

When the Princely State of Hyderabad was integrated into the Indian Union


Assembly Elections: Haryana and Maharashtra

Haryana A Decisive Victory for the BJP

B. N. Mehrish

Maharashtra: Have the BJP and the Shiv Sena Missed the Mandate?

Nitin G. Raut

Prime Minister Modi – 6 Months After

Modi Triumphant

Firoze Hirjikaka

Modi’s Detractors in America

Sardul Singh Minhas

Federalism, Governance and Growth

Sunil S. Bhandare

The Political-Economy of Black Money in India

Ajit Karnik

Point Counter Point : Every issue has at least two sides

Maharashtra Elections

Ashok Karnik

Ottawa Attack

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The Black Money Hype

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The Rural Perspective

Agriculture and Rural Indebtedness - IV

R. M. Mohan Rao

Foreign Relations in the 21st Century

Containment And Cooperation: Continuity and Change in India’s China Policy

B. Ramesh Babu

Book Review


Lok Raj Baral


Vappala Balachandran

Educating Adults

The Legality of ‘Tolerated Prostitution’ - Remembering Meliscent Shephard as we Debate

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Legalising Prostitution – The Way Forward

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Sending Sheetal from a Red Light Area to a U.S drum school?


Facilities Alone do not make for Good Education – A Personal Experience

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Compelling Scientists to Teach

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From Our Readers

Andhra Pradesh Day

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Preserving Our Nationhood and Culture

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Why this Discrimination?

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“A Tale of Three Nations” - A Correction

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Many Voices from the Past

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