Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A De for the black

As I looked at the paper this morning, I couldn't help reading the headlines on the front page and feeling that cold, fuzzy feeling of... well... sadness. A few of the articles in question:

Rupee at all-time low of 52.15, to impact everyday life
Black money offenders may escape prosecution
Govt plans Rs.30,000cr bailout for Air India
Maha govt has spent Rs.16cr on Kasab so far
In the last decade, over 4 died in custody daily

How are these all linked? Well, it all starts with a question... how can I increase the amount and value of the black money I've got?

Before we begin, here's a little background.

A while ago, news reports told us that Sonia Gandhi went to the US for an operation. There's been no official statement (to my knowledge at least) as to what operation this was or what it was for. Most folks would rack this up to a personal privacy concern - which I would think of as the right thing to do. Illness in the family is hardly something you want splashed all over every form of media as 'breaking news', however, quoting from an article from Zee News:
Confirming the news, Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said, “Sonia Gandhi has been unwell for quite some time and the doctors attending her had advised her to undergo a surgery, for which she had flown to the United States recently.”
Briefing the press reporters on her health, Dwivedi said, “The abdominal surgery performed on her has been successful and she had been advised to take full rest.”
I've heard that her trip out of the country was to handle some 'money matters' - this could be related to the operation costs. I've been told that there were reports of Rahul stopping by in Switzerland on his way to the US to visit his mother after her surgery - this would seem a little cold. I'm off to visit my mom - she's just had an operation... heeeeey, wanna stop by in Switzerland on the way? When I tried searching for articles related to this, I only found articles suggesting that neither of them had gone to the US at all and were both in Switzerland. I haven't linked to any of these since they weren't mainstream media sites. Other subsequent reports say she's got some form of skin cancer or something. Maybe she should either tell the media to shut up or set them straight in reporting the truth.

Anyway, it's generally accepted in India that there are lots of people in the country with lots of black money. It's also accepted here that the people with the money are the ones in control. I read an article a while ago which suggested that the government would make it easier to bring back black money without having to pay anything in way of penalty. Just the regular tax would be deducted. It figures that people with large amounts of black money would want to go easy on people with large amounts of black money, and allow them to bring it back without prosecuting them for having that amount of undeclared money.

Which brings us to the first article I've mentioned in the post. Some news papers and channels have suggested that the government could have done something to control the sliding rupee before, but now it's going into freefall - and there's not much that can help prevent that. Heck, if I've got US Dollars and Euros, my cash is now worth 10% more than it was a couple of months ago. If I've got enough that I'm planning on bringing back to India anytime soon, I'd like it if the Rupee slid further. With all this talk about all the black money stashed abroad, if/when it DOES come back, there's a significant drop in the loss to the owner of this cash.

The next article is about how black money offenders may escape prosecution. The Income Tax department, which normally manages to worry even the most well connected people in the country would appear toothless when it comes to larger deviations from the rules. If they haven't paid tax on the money stashed abroad, they should at LEAST be made liable to have that tax deducted - freeze their local bank accounts if necessary. Any 'unexplained' assets should be made property of the country. The ED (Enforcement department) in our country is (to my understanding) only involved when it comes to prosecution. If the details can't be shared between the IT department and ED because of the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty (DTAT), then handle the prosecution of these people once Germany gives clearance - the country would benefit, in the meantime, from infusion of a huge amount of cash. Our president went to Switzerland and Austria to talk about the issues of the DTAT, but so far the only mainstream media report I could find on this was this one, published before the trip. This would suggest that the trip didn't go well for the Indian public so details weren't published by the media. The BJP has jumped on this with the input that since the people on the list didn't EARN the money abroad, they aren't liable to pay taxes abroad - sounds straightforward enough. 

With all this behind-the-scenes activity, we, the people of the country have to be thrown a bone once every now and then - with all the reports of all the scams, it's getting hard to see what rules/laws/amendments the government is coming up with to protect themselves from prosecution. It's in the interest of most political parties to protect the corrupt. This dance would appear to be for the benefit of the Indian people so that when people finally DO get caught, they get a slap on the wrist, spend 6 months or so incarcerated in luxury, then get out to spend their ill-gotten gains - the rules still don't allow for recovery of any of the money stolen.

So what's up with our national carrier? How does that tie in? As far as I see, it's just one more set of scams. The airline industry in the country's not doing particularly well - and for all the rubbish people have been coming up with like 'they're badly/inefficiently managed', or 'Indigo is doing well', I have this to say to you - inefficiencies can make a difference, but not THIS much of a difference. Indigo (or rather Interglobe) is making profits FROM the other airlines rather than from it's airline service. I understand the owners were smart enough to book a large number of aircraft which are being delivered - and sold/leased out to other airlines since delivery schedules are in terms of years for aircraft manufacturers. The politicians have been known to use the national carrier (Indian) like their own personal charters - the Civil aviation ministers (and lots of other folks apparently) are guaranteed a lifetime of free tickets. Not that the rest of the government pays in any case. Now they're giving them a 30,000cr bailout rather than paying their dues. No wonder they didn't want to give it back to the Tatas to run - they'd have objected to letting so many folks fly everywhere for free.

Rs.16cr (Rs.160million) on Kasab. This has gone on food, drink, accommodation and security over the last 3 years. That's on average Rs.1.46L (Rs.146K) per day. I thought he was in jail! Okay, so lets assume he's got prime property in Bombay. Lets peg that at 14K/day on just space and electricity - there are much more expensive hotels, but hey, this guy doesn't get room service does he? Take a few (5 or 6) of the higher pay-scale cops and pay them a little more - that's another 14K/day. Food? What the hell - lets get him 5 star rates - that comes up to (with difficulty) 10K/day. One full rate return trip to Pakistan per month (which I'm sure he doesn't get) - including rental car and security detail - Rs.2L/month (averages at 7K/day). Where's the rest of this money? Court fee/lawyers? 100K/month? We've got pictures of the guy shooting folks up. We've got an admission of guilt. There are enough eye witnesses AND he's been found guilty already... I'm guessing the rest is something to do with someone making a lot of money on the side... like by providing him with food at the price of gold, while 4 people die in custody because they've been mistreated/manhandled/not been cared about enough.

The sad bit is that all this political 'VIP' nonsense is the root of all these headlines.

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