The government on Wednesday promised to bring out a “White Paper” on black money as the Lok Sabha defeated by voice vote an adjournment motion in which veteran BJP leader L.K. Advani attacked the government for its inaction in bringing back black money stashed away in foreign banks.
The government rejected the Opposition demand for disclosing information received from countries about Indian account holders as it would violate treaties and agreements with sovereign governments.
Intervening during the discussion on the adjournment motion, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee termed the menace “serious” and asserted that the UPA government was not “protecting any black money holder.” The government would bring out a “White Paper” on black money.
In his 45-minute reply, the Leader of the House handled the criticism of the government on the issue deftly, at times rebuffing the Opposition charge and flagging the steps taken to seize black money and recover the evaded tax.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Home Minister P. Chidambaram were all ears as Mr. Mukherjee defended the government.
“We are all concerned on how to tackle and bring back black money. I have also given an action plan for it,” Mr. Mukherjee said. Refusing to dwell upon “fancy” figures, he said the House should debate, discuss and decide how to get rid of the menace. He clarified that no names of MPs figured in the information on foreign account holders which he had received.
The government had received 36,000 pieces of information. “If I publish it, some country will say you violated the agreement and we will not share information in future. We will dry up our sources of information.”
The government was going after those who held illegal accounts abroad, than going public with the names, as the account holders would then withdraw the money.
Quoting figures of Global Financial Integrity, he said that during the 60-year period of 1948-2008, about $213 billion was stashed away abroad in accounts held by Indians. “At the current value, this would come to $ 462 billion.” According to some reports of Swiss Bankers Association, he said, the quantum of black money was put at $ 1,500 billion to $ 1,900 billion.
The government had signed double taxation avoidance agreements with 82 countries to facilitate those entities who were having cross-country trade connections. A revised tax treaty with Switzerland had come into force and it would enable India to procure banking details with effect from April 1, 2011.
Earlier, Mr. Advani hit out at the Centre on the issue of black money. Quoting a report of the Global Financial Integrity, he claimed that Rs. 25 lakh crore of such “dirty money” had gone abroad, and demanded that the government bring out a “White Paper” on the issue.
He also wanted enactment of legislation to make contestants of elections to file an affidavit stating that they did not have black money stashed away abroad.
Moving the adjournment motion, he said: “Reveal the names you have. It will be a humiliation if we do not get to know them from our Prime Minister or our Finance Minister and come to know from Julian Assange of WikiLeaks as he has said that he would reveal them in 2012.” He said the common man felt that the government was not “pro-active” in dealing with black money.