Strike at the roots

Strike at the roots

The tabling of Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 as a money bill in LS on Monday and its passage the next day has come as a surprise. 

The tabling of Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016 as a money bill in LS on Monday and its passage the next day has come as a surprise.

Coming as it does after a strident posture by PM Modi of taking only punitive measures post Income Disclosure Scheme (IDS), this tax amnesty within 20 days of demonetisation announcement reflects a sort of climbdown.

Experts aver that mere punitive measures, sans any incentivised disclosures, have not rid any economy of black wealth. Thus, pragmatism seems to have dawned on the government.

Demonetisation has snagged world’s fastest growing economy’s engine which was firing on all its cylinders.

Last 20 days have shown how Indians are ingenious enough to beat the system. Under the IDS, voluntarily disclosed wealth was levied tax-cum-penalty up to 45 per cent, while stash hoarders were warned to face up to 200% penalty besides regular tax under the Section 270A brought through the Finance Bill 2016.

But, the new amendment seeks to let off voluntary disclosures with 50 per cent tax-cum-penalty, while it awards up to 85 per cent if tax cheats are caught.

Why this leniency on those tax cheats who in normal course would have to cough up much more as penalty? Hasn’t inept enforcement of note ban failed to tame black money hoarders?

Be that as it may, now is the time for the Modi government to strike at the very genesis of all forms of black money.

Faster availability of small denomination notes and boost to cashless transactions apart, it shall declare a no-holds-barred battle against black money.

Nation's psyche is rightly primed for a long haul against corruption, as was seen in lukewarm response to Aakrosh Divas protests on Monday.

Corruption breeds and deepens poverty in a nation. India has already notched dismal rankings on several indices like health, red tape, competitiveness, transparency and sustainable goals.

Strongest systemic checks and balances should be explored and enforced. Cleansing must begin at the top i.e., political class. Combating corruption is contingent on speedy disposal of corruption cases.

It is time to end the tussle between executive and judiciary and fill up a large number of judicial vacancies. Already held up for two years, any further delay in Lokpal appointment cannot be condoned.

Likewise, a great institution like CAG is only able to bark, but not bite. So is the case with Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

Similarly, the RTI Act which completed 10 years last year is yet to catch the imagination of people at large.

To promote public participation in containing corruption, and to go after the lax and corrupt babus and netas, the whistle blower protection act should be implemented in its letter and spirit.

Holistic and foolproof measures are thus called for. Any less accountable actions will only show Modi long on intent and short on measures.

“Corruption and hypocrisy ought not to be inevitable products of democracy, as they undoubtedly are today,” thus rued Mahatma Gandhi.

Unfortunately, 69 years on, Indian democracy is yet to realise his dream. This is an opportune time to seek out and stamp out corruption in all its forms.

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