Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Great Indian Jungle

The Big Bang caused by the Swiss Banking Association 2008 report in recent days is showing signs of dying out. It sounds like just yet another sound and fury of "the Great Indian Circus" which signifies nothing but gaga and bla bla of the newspapers and the television media. But should that commotion be allowed to die down or shouldn’t the flames of it be fanned up high and wide and let the conflagration put an end to the death-like complacency of "We The People" (to borrow the phrase of the Indian Constitution which majestically guarantees protection to the person, property, and liberty of its citizens under its wings).

I am recapitulating here what the reader would have time and again read in other sources. To begin with, the report states that Indians have $1891 billions stashed away in various Swiss banks. Here are some figures and the enormity of which is startling.

Top 5 Depositors
India---- $1891 billion
Russia----- $610 billion
China------ $213 billion
UK-------- $210 billion
Ukraine ----------- $140 billion
Rest of the world ----$300 billion

When it gets down to brass tacks the fact is that out of the 180 or so community of nations in the world, India clearly comes out as the "black money champion" of the world. A title which should make every upright Indian's head be lowered down in shame. And that too, India is not an ordinary champion in the sense that when the grand total of the rest of the countries, i.e. $1473, is pitted against India’s $1891 it does not even come near to equalizing in the near future.

There are many mind-boggling facts associated with this Swiss Bank kumbakonam:

  •  The amount of $1891 is more money than all the money in all the banks in India put together.

  •  The amount is 13 times larger than the country’s foreign debt.

  •  The amount left after paying the foreign debt if invested in earning interest the resulting interest would be more than the national budget.

  •  Or, if the $1891 is distributed amount the 45 crores of poor people in the country (based on World Bank basis of those earning less than $1.25 per day) each person would get Rs.100,000.

So who is to blame for the plight of the nation? Just imagine how much more black money would be hidden away in other 70 or so called tax havens across the globe like Liechtenstein, St Kitts, Antigua, Bahamas, Isle of Man, etc., and how many fold more would be circulating through various financial institutions inside the country itself. In a country like India where crores of its people are unable to earn even Rs. 30 per day for their day-to-day livelihood, these facts would justify the case of even the meekest proponents of revolutions which had temporarily cleaned the dirty stables in other countries along the ages.

There are also talks about the Swiss bank authorities informing the Indian government that they would agree to handover the whereabouts of this astronomic money in its lockers provided the government requests through the proper channels. There are other dimensions to the Swiss authorities reluctance to handing over the required documents to the Government of India. Secrecy has been a byword with the Swiss banks for decades. If the bank has to do an exception to that rule the Government of India will have to do much spade work before approaching the bank for “name-fishing expedition”. And the bank had more than once warned the government to desist from “name-fishing expedition” without doing the required homework.

India government will have to painstakingly collect details and proofs of the whereabouts of the suspicious names that are associated with the Swiss banks depositing. Recently, the Swiss bank UBS agreed to hand over details of 4,450 secret accounts of US citizens to US Internal Revenue Service, but only after receiving solid proofs from the IRS. It is worthwhile to remember that earlier in this year, US government and IRS were pressing forward with criminal charges against UBS for conniving to defraud the US government. But before the charges could be moved further USB agreed to pay the U.S. government $780 million and admitted that it had conspired to defraud the United States by abetting Americans to hide money from the IRS.

On the other hand, a similar Indian Government request pertaining to an account of Hassan Ali Khan was turned down by UBS AG following submittal of forged documents. The case involved Hassan Ali Khan, the Pune based real estate consultant and stud farm owner who is accused by Mumbai income tax department of money laundering to the tune of $8 billions (39,120 crores) and depositing it in UBS AG.

In a shocking revelation by Transparency International India, Governement of India is in the dock for not showing enthusiasm to German governemnt's positive overture of offering to provide information free of cost about billions of dollars of unaccounted money which are held by people of India which is lying in Liechtenstein, which is a small German county. Whereas other countries like USA, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Canada, Italy, U.K and Ireland whose nationals are also included in the same list are seriously collecting the information about their citizens.

But why is the government lackadaisical about taking such a step. One obvious reason for the lukewarm response of both the government and the opposition parties is the fact that corrupt politicians have found berths in all parties. Who would be foolhardy enough to stir the hornet’s nest upon which he is sitting comfortably or who would be suicidal enough the cut thread of the sword that is hanging over his head or in other words which politician would be a bumpkin enough to kill a milch cow for its meat.

Thus far for the technicalities of bringing the culprits to the book. But who is to blame for the sordid state of our nation where corruption continues to be the main evil among many others evils that plagues it. Who is bleeding India white? Is it the politicians or is it the fraudulent industrialists or is it the bureaucracy?

When the Brits were there in India all blame was shouldered upon them for the famines and every sort of maladies that occured in the country. Yes they were responsible to a certain extend. But now even after 60 years of independence who is to blame for not eradicating poverty. It is a question which every educated Indian ought to ask. It is high time that "We The People" do some serious introspection and take necessary steps to root out the evil of corruption from our soil.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Compassionate Prince

Lord Buddha continues to fascinate the imagination and thoughts of men across the globe even after nearly 2600 years of his death. His appeal cuts across religions, races, continents, castes, creeds, etc.

One of the finest aspects of Buddhism that has interested me, other than its noble tenets, is its unusual peaceful coexistance with the other faiths. One could hardly hear Buddhists getting embroiled in religious polemics whether doctrinal or other airy claims over the souls of men. This is a poem about Lord Buddha that I had penned during my college days, torn off and pasted here…

The Compassionate Prince

Show me a star,
I will follow it to its grave.
And I will scatter my days in the wind
To get a millennium of ecstasy in his company.

The state of nirvana is akin to death,
A comma yearning for a full stop.
A stony statue beneath the Bo tree_
Insensible to the sparrow at its benumbed hand.

But the days of struggle were steep and full,
Each moment charged with zeal and passion
And endless treasures of compassion
Of love, not blind as of a bouncing calf
But an all-seeing and all-embracing might.

An old man, a sick man, and a corpse
Are the triumvirs that shook your world
A court scandalized_
And a family of wife and child left behind.

Why for Siddhartha did you disown your world
To wipe our tears
For we have nothing else to drink _
In this parched up world.

But whenever the chariot of Ashoka
Goes brandishing past the Kalinga grounds
I hear your silent dharma at work from up the skies
Turning the wheel in a missionary zeal.

                                                   George Manjooran