Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bringing back India’s wealth

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani today addressed the media and addressed the issue of Indian’s saving their wealth in foreign banks. Now this issue has 2 aspects, it involves fraudulent money amassed by the people and also the money which people have genuinely saved.

This issue comes in the wake of the recent announcement of the foreign banks such as the Swiss Bank that they are ready to share their investor’s information with the govt if requested. The US government has promptly reacted to this by taking the necessary steps to obtain the required information. This issue becomes even more important in view of the recent economic crisis. Mr. Advani also said that he had written to the prime minister about this but no action was taken. This issue comes in the wake of the G-20 Summit to be held in London in the coming days.

So how important is this issue? There are 2 sides to this issue. First of all, it would bring about a lot of transparency to the political system in India. The wealth amassed by the political class in these tax havens would be out. All of us speak about the wealth amassed by Mr. X or Mrs. Y in these banks. Let us know the truth. It would bring about a political renaissance in India.

The second aspect to this is that the money which people have genuinely saved can be brought back to India and can be invested in the country. The estimated wealth of the Indians in these banks ranges from $500 Billion to $1400 Billion. This is huge money and would greatly strengthen the Indian economy if invested properly.

But is this really implementable? The political babus would never allow anyone to investigate their wealth, let alone passing a bill to legalize this procedure. This is because every political party has to then revealing the skeletons in its cupboard. At the same time, no party can openly oppose this law as it would show the party in bad light.

The RTI was implemented by the UPA amidst great fanfare. It has been implemented in several situations and has brought a positive change. But it is still plagued by the fact that its failures greatly outweigh its success. The Information officers as they call are mainly ex Government Officials. In such a situation we end up in a situation where in one corrupt man is trying to investigate the cases against another corrupt man. In most cases, the person who appeals is framed with criminal charges and the matter is closed.

We certainly hope that the RTI continues to evolve into a much more effective law. We have made a good beginning and we can’t afford to lose steam mid-way. Similarly, we need to make a beginning to get back India’s wealth and invest the money wisely. It will take a lot of political will to do so and it is achievable.

A Victim Of Diversity

India has been the cradle of civilization. Several religions trace their origin to India. We have more than a hundred languages with about 30 of them being recognized as official languages. Great thinkers and philosophers, the several invasions of India and travelers from far off lands have contributed to India’s diverse religious beliefs.

In a land where people of different beliefs live together, there seems to be a fear in the minds of Individuals that their beliefs and customs would not find a place in modern India. There is a fear of isolation , an isolation probably not during their lifetime but during the lifetime of their children and grandchildren. The demography of India is constantly changing. That is because unlike China, India allows the free movement of its people.

The so called original inhabitants of a land , dare I say aborigines , fear a change in the demography of their land. We have seen such behavior in North East India where in there have been clashes between Muslim migrant workers and the native bodo population. We have seen Hindu Muslim clashes in Uttar Pradesh. Even outside India we know of clashes between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland, between Sunni and Shia Muslims in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The list is endless. It is not only religion. We have seen bihari and U.P workers being targeted in Mumbai, the tamil population being targeted during the Cauvery water crisis of the 1990’s etc etc.

So what we achieved with diversity? I would really want the people who speak so greatly of India’s diversity to answer this question. They might speak greatly about the art and literature in the various cultures. Fine valid point. But is that enough? More importantly has any culture taught people that they need to respect the other cultures equally ? Great thinkers who have started religions probably never felt the need to intellectually argue and amend the flaws of an existing religion instead of starting a new faith. I wish they had!

India has been the biggest victim of diversity in religion and culture. We might have guided the world with principles and religions. Every nation chose to keep one religion and prosper. We chose to prosper with many. Unfortunately we have failed in execution.

The problem is compounded by the fact that, we have a media which is focused only on the TRP’s. It is clear to them that an issue of religion would get them more viewership and they milk this concept. The result is that we end up focusing on personalities rather than real issues which the country faces.
Locations of visitors to this page