Investigate Assets Declaration

income-tax

Exposure of assets by ministers, election candidates, bureaucrats etc., is open to scrutiny and if questioned by income tax department or inquired by a special scrutiny mechanism

By Prabhakar Kulkarni

India aspires to be a super power and competing with other countries in Asia. But a survey has found that Indian bureaucracy is the worst in Asia. But why it is worst and whether it is duly sheltered by political wings of the government needs further analysis. It is not merely a matter of efficiency but also corruption. Because this bureaucracy turns quite efficient the moment it is bribed. The bribery is not duly checked by politicians as they are also directly or indirectly involved in grabbing wealth and assets. Thus India seems to be the most corrupt in Asia and this is periodically exposed in both the television and print media.

The exposure is indicative of the very system, which fails at whatever attempts are being made to make India a super power as also triggering socio-economic inequality in the country. Transparency in democracy is indispensable as people should know almost all transactions carried out by the democratic government as also the monetary strength of those who govern them. The strength needs to be an achievement based on honest efforts and means as the democratic governance is presumed to be clean in it’s both the political and administrative wings.

Politicians who contest elections are expected to declare their assets both in kinds and coins. Most of them seem to have large amount of wealth in the form of land, flats, ornaments, fixed deposits in banks as also cash in hands. Most of them have more than a few lakh while some are possessing assets worth crores of rupee. During recent elections in Maharashtra and UP assets of candidates are disclosed. One candidate is reported to be possessing more than Rs 680 crore in assets while others are in fewer amounts in crores. These figures indicate that politicians possess much more than what normal voters imagine. In a way politicians are richer than most of those they govern and this is more so in a poor and developing country like India.

If this is the case of politicians, what about the bureaucrats? They are also expected to declare their assets. In response to a demand for declaration of their assets voiced by the veteran crusader against corruption Anna Hazare, the Maharashtra government has decided to make it compulsory for the bureaucrats to declare their assets every year. But whether the bureaucrats and ministers have declared their assets for public information is not yet confirmed. According to reports most have not yet declared their assets.

 As the state ministers have committed on this point and have been communicating with the Union government which controls service conditions of bureaucrats like IAS, IPS or IFS for the necessary sanction for the purpose, the bureaucrats should declare their wealth for public information. The Prime Minister Modi has also asked his cabinet ministers to declare their assets. 

Once the assets are declared they should be verified whether they are proportionate or disproportionate to the sources of income. There should be automatic system of vigilance and inquiry about this aspect the moment the candidates contesting elections declare their assets. The election commissioner should initiate inquiry and ask the relevant agency to carry out the inquiry.  If the inquiry is not carried out mere declaration of assets before elections has no significance.  Because the declare assets in crores create doubt among voters as to how so much of assets are possessed by the concerned candidates. The doubt needs to be dispelled by the election administration.

This is significant because the nature of corruption in government’s administration in collusion with politicians or ministers and bureaucrats is periodically pointed out in the Indian media which has exposed the ‘modus operandi’ of the corruption.

It is pointed out that ministers are scheduling their meetings at district places as they are eager to attend marriage ceremonies of their relatives or family friends. High level bureaucrats also use the same technique so that their expenditure is borne by the concerned departments while they are greeted with shawls, idols and other costly presentation articles not only to them but also to their wives and relatives.

The burden is obviously passed on to the people, whose even legal and reasonable work is not done by any department without paying bribe which has now received the status of statutory payment to the government. People who approach offices for getting property cards, land records, ration cards, caste certificates, driving licenses and even birth and death certificates, professional permits and many such requirements are expected to pay much more as bribe than the prescribed fees or charges legally payable for the specific work or requirement.

In this situation peoples’ representatives, who form governments, are more answerable and it is their duty to check such malpractices instead of being party to them. Those assuming power as ministers as also MLAs and MPs are directly accountable to people and they are expected to curb corrupt system of administration instead of either protecting it or nurturing it by sharing the quantum of bribes directly or indirectly.

The exposure of assets by ministers, contesting candidates and bureaucrats are open to scrutiny and if questioned by the income tax department or inquired by a special scrutiny mechanism then alone the current corruption will be checked with fear of exposure and further investigation. This is needed in a democratic system of governance without which attempts to create socio-economic equality necessary for achieving super power status will be just a dream.