Tuesday, July 18, 2017

‘EC must bring political parties under RTI Act, they have the power’

Hindustan Times: Pune: Tuesday, July 18, 2017.
The black money economy in the country cannot be dealt with effectively without tackling the political ecosphere and the real estate industry which are “the sources and sinks of black money.” If the Narendra Modi Government’s thrust to constrain the black money economy is to be successful, it will have to take a number of collateral steps subsequent to demonetisation, a paper published by the Pune International Centre (PIC) has said.
The paper ‘Containing  Black Money: Possible Policy Mechanisms’ by Dr. V. Bhaskar, member 13th Finance Commission, has acknowledged “insightful comments” from Vijay Kelkar, architect of the GST model and Pune-based economist Prof. Pradeep Apte, on the subject.
Published by PIC, the paper states unambiguously that politics and real estate are the primary sources and sinks of black money in India, the other sources being tax evasion, corruption and criminality.
One of his primary recommendations is that “all political parties should be compliant with the provisions of the RTI Act.” As a part of this effort, the Election Commission of India (ECI) must demand that political parties should publish their accounts after they are audited by an CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) approved auditor and submit details of all donations above Rs 20,000 to the ECI under their annual returns.
“When donations below R.20,000 exceed 20% of the party’s total receipts or Rs 20 crore, details of all donations should be provided,” Dr. Bhaskar has noted. He has recommended that all parties which do not comply should be de-registered by the ECI to underscore transparency in the funding of political parties.
A noted economist and an ex-IAS officer, Dr. Bhaskar has worked previously with the International Monetary Fund, and at the ministries of finance, commerce and industries.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Dr.Bhaskar said bringing political parties under RTI Act was the most important recommendation that he has made. “The Election Commission has the powers, the law is there; they only need to act,” he said.
He also stressed that “there is too much of legislation in the country; what we need is implementation.”
According to him, apart from tax evasion, corruption involving the political executive and the bureaucracy, and criminality were the major sources of black money. He said that increasing Government expenditure on infrastructure projects, irrigation schemes and social welfare projects, as well as allocation of natural resources to private parties for use “afford opportunities for the generation of illegal incomes.”
He has noted that corruption (tax evasion and misuse of power) is equally prevalent in the private sector, especially in the education and health sectors.
Organised and unorganised criminality in the form of crimes involving drugs, extortion, prostitution, and human trafficking generates resources which escape tax.
Pune International Centre’s Honorary Director Prashant Girbane told HT that the report by Dr. Bhaskar written after demonetisation, has been published by the PIC. “The report would be sent to the government in the due course. It’s objective is to create public discourse and discussion,” Girbane said.