CBI Director A P Singh’s comment this week that an astounding 500 billion dollars (around 24.5 lakh crore) of Indian money is stashed away in tax havens abroad did not create the stir that it should have in a normal conscientious society. But we Indians seem to have got numbed. Some newspapers and channels even made joke of it, calling the statement a rabbit out of the hat.
Campaign to retrieve black money has been on for a few years now. The issue received a big push when Baba Ramdev took it up in earnest and launched an agitation. The UPA government, which stirs out of slumber only once in a while swung into action and ensured that the movement was dissipated. Ramdev had put the amount at Rs 400 lakh crore. When the BJP issued a Task Force Report on the issue, it had estimated that the Indian money stashed abroad is Rs 25,00,000 crore.
Dambisa Moyo, a Harvard professor in her book How the West Was Lost quoting Asymmetric Threat Contingency Alliance (ATCA) wrote that India has an estimated US$ 1.5 trillion (that is seventy four trillion rupees in today’s rates) residing in Swiss banks (more unaccounted for monies than the rest of the world put together), and an amount ten times larger than its foreign debt. One of the earliest to raise the issue is noted lawyer Ram Jethmalani who is fighting a case in the Supreme Court demanding the revelation of names. Subramanian Swamy, the anti-corruption crusader publicly stated that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi is one of the largest holders of Indian black money abroad.
But in all these varying amounts, one fact is common. Indians are the largest hoarders of black money in foreign banks. Ironically, the Indian government is doing the least to retrieve it. The manner in which the Prime Minister, the Finance Minister and Home Minister fumble when questions are raised about getting the money back or releasing names of account holders or even account numbers is a dead give away to the fact that they want to protect the offenders.
The government cites treaties with other governments which it says prohibits it from going public on the illegal deposits. The issue is of utmost national importance which cannot be allowed to be swayed by convenient treaties. In a country, where even by government admission eighty per cent of the population needs food security, a fraction of the amount being discussed can make a life and death difference to millions. India is still a country where women are given ‘awards’ for initiating toilet habits in their villages. That’s how bad our development is.
India has seen several rounds of loot and plundering. Predators who heard stories of honey and milk flowing down the streets attacked us repeatedly, looted and scooted. Our so-called secular historians even attribute only monetary greed and no religious bigotry for the eighteen attacks staged by Mohammad Ghazni on Somnath. Such was our wealth. Our history is dotted with anecdotes of invaders loading camels and elephants with gems and silk and gold to be transported to their homeland. Babur is reported to have sent a gift to every single member of his clan after his first victory in India.
Even after centuries of Mughal plunder India had enough to tempt the British, Portuguese, French and the Dutch to fight for our land, wealth and riches. Their museums and chest are filled with precious things looted from India including the Koh-i-noor. Britons abusing us today for not giving the latest defence deal to them must remember that it is India that fed and fuelled their industrial revolution, financed their wars and clothed their elite.
The latest looters are home grown, with an exception of one family at the top. The rest are all born Indians, brought up by this land that offered opportunities to grow and flourish. In return, they have all exploited every chance to steal money, take it abroad and hide it. They do not even plough it back here. The money is helping the economies of other nations, which depend on these deposits to sustain their growth. Anguished by the plight of his ancestors, Bhageerath did penance for years to bring Ganga to earth, to cleanse their sins. We need a modern-day Bhageerath who would bring the tainted money from abroad back to where it belongs, for the param vaibhav of Bharat.