Thursday, February 3, 2011

Are you a vigilant citizen?

The news on recent scams and discussions on Indian political framework and Governance brings me to ask, “What can WE do as the citizen of the country?” I am sure all of us have concerns, and wouldn’t miss an opportunity to point fingers at the Government but can we do anything at all beyond this? I am looking forward to a collective discussion that could lead to productive solutions. Yes, my hopes are always high :)

I believe essentially, we are not vigilant citizens; we fail to keep a close watch on Government policies and functionaries. The 2G scam has come into public purview after the PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed in the court. PIL can be filed by common citizens. How many of us take the head ache to question the Government? I agree, you will be gone missing if you try any such heroic act! Let us remember unity is strength and if we all come together to file a PIL, then we might just be better placed. The bottom line is we should be aware of such laws, and threaten to exercise them that the Government thinks twice before looting. Today, they know we don’t keep a check on them and they prowl freely. RTI is another powerful act that enables the citizen to acquire information; unfortunately citizens excising it have met misfortunes and it is sad that Government has failed to curb such interferences.

Closely linked quotient is awareness. Forget about being vigilant and standing up, mere ‘Knowing’ would help. Majority of the population care a hoot about what is happening in the country. I understand that the less privileged have limited resources to information, but our own well educated citizens in the city aren’t aware of many ongoing implementations, both commendable and questionable.
Much of these issues do not affect the individual directly, even if it does it comes down many years later, may be a reason for negligence from our end. What about those issues that affect our everyday life? Food inflation, rise in petrol, traffic congestion, real estate booms, so on and so forth. We don’t put our foot down and reject anything that is over-priced. For instance, even if we realize the worth of piece of land 25kms away from Chennai is less than what it is being sold at, we still invest. Real estate is not an essential commodity; we can afford to stay united in not purchasing such lands. When the demand decreases, naturally the price would come to what it is worth. Few of us who can afford actually inflate the price benefiting the Land dealers who are in turn in nexus with politicians and bureaucrat sometimes running a probable scam. In many of such similar cases, we are very unmindful of our actions.

Conservation of petrol is the least we can do, in usage of most of the natural resources we should be looking at it from a larger perspective. I can afford to buy petrol even at 100/- per liter does not mean I am privileged to waste the natural resources. None of us have entitlement to natural resources; money has been enabled as an exchange rate to buy these commodities in the modern setup, period. We need to use them wisely. I am not sure if a system exists that enables common citizen to express his ideas/views on larger issue. A mutually engaging system where even citizens are able to voice out a suggestion to combat an existing widespread issue would be interesting. Forums where individuals can contribute on possible alternative traffic flows in a congestion prone area, such collective engagement might turn out to be productive. Don’t you think so? Today, I have suggestion but I do not know where to voice it out. I am aware of some forums and grievance cells, but are they effectively functioning? We need to have such exchange forums and their existence should be made known and more importantly they should function efficiently, now that is asking for lot ;)

I believe each one of us have to accommodate ourselves in this society as we have come to/agreed to live in such a setup abiding by social norms and have a collective consensus. The need of the hour is, each of us has to think, how our actions impact the society. We need to ask ourselves, what can I do for the society and good governance of the Nation, in our own possible simple ways and do it. A mere thought, “How can I?” would by itself go a long way. A constant thought would generate many simple solutions.

I am believer of free thinking and aspire for a system of free thinkers not bound by social norms, but since we are here in a social system, we need to show our concern and be responsible for the Governance that we elect for ourselves.

Remember it is we who devised this system for our own self and it is important we engage in the process of running the Government. Primary responsibility is to vote, but it doesn’t just stop there. We need to be constantly involved and be vigilant.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Indo-Swiss black money trail

Why has India not been able to crack down on the citizens who have stashed away huge amounts in the Swiss bank? Government of India says there isn’t enough information/evidence to indict the offenders. Point considered but what has the Government done in the last 5-6 years to find evidence? Leads have to be converted to evidence by the investigative authority. Isn’t it?

The latest we hear is that, the Government of India has a list of names who have accounts abroad but won’t reveal the names as it would breach the Treaty under which the names were extracted and beyond that the Government is concerned about the mutual trust that would be broken. Well, you don’t have to reveal the names; the least you could tell the citizens is what action has been taken? Answers come only when probed and those answers aren’t satisfactory. For instance, the concerned department in the Government is working on the papers to levy tax from the offenders. How long? Shouldn’t the Government be proactive in investigating such sensitive cases rather than make answers when quizzed?

Is this only tax evasion? Have these citizens only dodged paying their taxes? If it is only a case of tax evasion then yes the Government of India is bound by the double taxation treaty that doesn’t entitle to disclose the names. In which case, as the Government claims, it can only work on imposing the tax and rightful law for flouting the India Law. Recent media investigation clearly reveals that some of the offenders are not just tax offenders but have gone beyond.

When the media has evidence against certain people and their nexus with arms/gun dealers, cases of money laundering then aren’t these cases beyond tax evasion. Aren’t these potential cases of threat to National security? Is the government conveniently hiding behind the Double Taxation Treaty clauses and not doing enough? Shouldn’t the government be presenting a case of crime to the Swiss Government, when the information is requested beyond the norms of Double Taxation treaty by representing a strong case of International threat, can’t we reveal the names now? Why hasn’t India made such a representation yet? Government claims, ‘No Evidence’ to be placed before the International community, there is no strong case here.

Media says there is evidence, The Enforcement Directorate (ED) of India has done investigation and a report was available in 2009 against Mr.Hasan Ali, who had six-eight billion dollars in his account. Why can’t the Government pursue this one case where we have evidence and why can’t government work on procuring other information and evidence? Won’t one case lead to the other skeletons in the cloak? Isn’t it clear that the Government of India is not showing any will to move forward? If any action/investigation is being done as claimed by Government then it is on a snail’s pace. Shouldn’t the Government be transparent in their investigation? Now, the Government is proud to present a five point strategy to tackle tax evasion. Does it take 6 long years to come out with Strategy? If it takes 6 years for formulating a strategy then you can imagine when justice would be delivered. Why are we so slow?

It is completely understandable that a case of money laundering and stashing money in tax havens aboard is an International issue and involves many stakeholders. There might be many bottlenecks in the investigation process, yet the time period for execution doesn’t seem to be because of other dependencies rather it seems like inefficiency and lethargy of Government to act. One of the senior leaders in the Government on Talk show smirked at us, asking the Indians, “why you believe in the Swiss Government so much, what makes you think they will reveal the names so easily, even other powerful nations are struggling to get information from the Swiss, it is not as easy as you Indians believe.” To put it in his words, He said it is close to impossible to get the money back to India.

It doesn’t matter what the Swiss does, we are concerned about what India does. Have you requested for the information from the Swiss in the first place by presenting a factual true case. First let us do our bit then we can talk about the rest.
How do you expect us to believe you when all that we see is irregularities and corruption in running of the Government? Seeing is believing!