Countless eyebrows were raised and lusty chortles let out in the subcontinent over a recent news report on a Nepalese Foreign Ministry spokesman’s statement in the context of the SAARC Summit due to be hosted by Kathmandu next week. Briefing the press about the arrangements being put in place for the event, the spokesman informed the vastly amused journalists that Pakistan had turned down India’s offer to provide a bullet proof car for the use of their Prime Minister during his visit while all the other participating countries had accepted a similar Indian offer in respect of their leaders. If Pakistan went into a sulking mode and made a spectacle of itself by displaying to the whole world its peevish and churlish attitude by spurning a warm Indian gesture and stating that its Prime Minister would be taking with him their own bullet proof car to the SAARC Summit for his own personal safety, the Indian Prime Minister stood tall in sharp contrast by taking with him his own silver bullet to the G20 Summit at Sydney in the service of the nation. Now, what is this silver bullet all about?
Commitment to End the Black Money Menace
During BJP’S campaign for Lok Sabha elections 2014, the then party President Rajnath Singh thundered that the hoard of black money stashed away in overseas tax havens by errant Indians would be brought back within 100 days. This position had been taken and voiced earlier too by veteran leader L.K.Advani during the 2009 polls. The promise of unearthing black money was echoed this time around practically by every speaker at BJP’s campaign meetings. The vast sums of black money parked overseas by recalcitrant tax dodgers would not only be brought home if BJP was voted to power but also put to good use by way of investments in public welfare projects. Lascivious stories of how much the notional share of every Indian citizen of the humongous black money pie would be were bandied about to the thrill and unbridled excitement of ecstatic crowds which lapped up every bit of the stories in the characteristic style of a people who had been thirsting for years for a positive turn of events in public life for the betterment of the nation. Call it naiveté, if you will, as Modi’s detractors did. BJP scored a strategic point by calling it an ambitious plan in deference with people’s aspiration; and a grateful people, wallowing in low esteem on account of having earlier voted for a non-working government afflicted by policy paralysis, voted BJP to a thundering victory. BJP was called upon to deliver on its promise lest it should be held guilty of flying a hot air balloon.
The very first decision taken by the Modi government on its first day in office was for the formation of a Special Investigation Team to probe into black money. The promptness behind this action was matched by the swiftness with which the government swung into follow up action. Contacts were established with the governments of the tax havens for obtaining information regarding the names of the Indian black money hoarders and the quantum of their booty. While the Government of India managed to wrest the information, it was stopped in its tracks by the caveats with which the information had been provided. The names and related information could be provided by GOI only to a court of law in the event of legal action against specific individuals. Furthermore, since India is a signatory to bilateral agreements on Avoidance of Double Taxation with these countries, the former was hamstrung by constraints imposed by the treaties. Investigations had to be initiated and completed against the persons in the list of black money hoarders and legal action put in place before their names could be made public. Till such time, there was no question of naming and shaming the persons involved in the proceedings.
Nothing could be more frustrating for a government than be unable to pull the rug from under the feet of the opposition parties by revealing the names of tax dodgers and black money hoarders who owe allegiance to those parties.
To the Summit with the Silver Bullet
Such were the circumstances when Narendra Modi proceeded to Brisbane to attend the G20 Summit and managed to get the group to include a certain clause in the final Leaders’ Communique which would make it difficult for tax havens to give complete tax exemption to companies. This assertion, complemented by the group’s endorsement of a Global Common Reporting Standard for automatic exchange of tax information on a reciprocal basis, constitutes the silver bullet which would enable the Modi government to fight the specter of black money at home with international cooperation. Modi’s strong pitch at the summit against black money and offer of India’s backing for all initiatives for exchange of information and mutual assistance in tax policy and administration were welcomed by a receptive audience, with the summit host and Australian PM Tony Abbot vowing a crackdown on tax evasion by MNCs and seeking intense cooperation from the G20 countries in this regard.
Sharpshooter on the Trail of Black Money
Armed with the ‘Made in India’ silver bullet and the backing of the Group of 20, the Modi government is out to get the specter of black money and apprehend the anti-national elements who have thus far had their halcyon days with ineffective governments at home and non-cooperative governments abroad. Indeed, tough times are in store for the law breakers, with Modi the Sharpshooter with the silver bullet hot on their trail!
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