Skip to main content

When did Union ministers queue up to deposit money in banks?

By Venkatesh Nayak*
Readers will recollect the headlines in several newspapers today — the Hon’ble Prime Minister has directed MPs of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to declare their bank transactions to the President of the Party in a bid to lead by example to come clean on their actions ‘after’ the decision to demonetise currency notes of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 denomination. The leader of a prominent political party has demanded transparency regarding the alleged financial dealings of the top leaders of the BJP.
Meanwhile the print and the electronic media have covered the travails of citizens across the country who have rushed to banks to deposit their old currency notes and exchange some for the newly printed Rs. 2000 and Rs. 500 bank notes. With the exception of the Vice President of the Indian National Congress (INC) who queued up before a bank branch in Delhi to exchange a small sum of the demonetised notes for new ones, people did not see any other political leader from any other political party queueing up before banks like them with money in hand and worries in their minds about the uncertain future. Media reports indicate several unfortunate incidents of citizens dying while standing in serpentine queues. Many more have been asking publicly why the political leaders are not found standing before banks like them.

“Cash in hand” declaration made by Union Ministers in 2016

Thanks to the Code of Conduct laid down for Ministers (Union and State levels) during the 1960s and revised from time to time, they are required to declare their assets and liabilities details apart from other dealings, where they may have financial interests. Similarly, as Members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Ministers declare details of their assets and liabilities in accordance with Section 75A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (see pages 38-39 in this document).
These declarations are voluntarily disclosed by the Government. They contain details of the “cash in hand” declared by every Minister in addition to details of bank deposits, other movable and immovable property that they own along with similar details of assets owned by hi or her spouse and dependent children. These details declared by most of the Union Ministers as on 31st March 2016 are accessible on the official website of the Prime Minister’s office. While some declrations seem to have been made for the purpose of complying with the Code of Conduct, others seem to have submitted the declarations furnished to Parliament under the respective House Rules.
I have compiled the data about how much “cash in hand” Ministers including the Hon’ble Prime Minister have declared officially by the end of March 2016. As this is publicly declared information, there is no reason to suspect any connection with “black money”. Frustrating people with black money and forcing them to come clean is one of the reasons why the Government has said that it too the decision to demonetise high value currency notes.
However, every citizen who has stood for hours before banks to either deposit the old currency notes in their accounts or exchange them for the new ones has the right to know when and where did the Ministers deposit the small and large sums of cash they held in their bank accounts. This is a small way of commemorating those citizens who died standing in serpentine queues before banks. The first question that every citizen should ask is:
1) whether these Ministers ever stood in queues like the common citizen whom they are sworn to serve, to deposit their demonetised notes unless all of them had cash in smaller denominations or sent their peons or relatives or some other person to make the transaction? When did they actually make these deposits?
The Government has indicated that the Income Tax (IT) Department may turn its scanner on account holders who deposit more than Rs. 2.5 lakhs in cash in their accounts either in one go or in installments. So the second question that citizens should ask is:
2) whether the IT Dept. will look at Ministers making deposits above Rs. 2.5 lakhs with the same degree of suspicion as they will at an ordinary citizen who makes similar high value deposits?
In order to dispel any doubt about whether the declaration includes money deposited in bank have compiled this data also in a separate column to contrast it with the data about “cash in hand” declared by the Ministers. Please note the following caveats while reading the compiled data:
1) A large number of Ministers have declared cash in hand separately from bank balance and deposits of various kinds. I have indicated both figures against each name wherever data is available separately. I have not included these categories of disclosure for their spouses and dependents as they are not public figures. The remarks in the last column at some rows contain my comments about the quality of data.
2) The cells highlighted in red indicate those Ministers whose tax history must be scrutinised, in theory, if they have deposited demonetised notes worth above Rs. 2.5 lakhs because such rules are applicable to ordinary citizens.
3) Assets and Liabilities Declarations of 2 Cabinet Ministers, and 17 Ministers of State are not published on the PMO’s website. Whether they have actually made any declaration to the PM or to the Houses of which they are Members is not known.
The biggest amount of “cash in hand” in the Council of Ministers was declared by the Finance Minister – more than Rs. 65 lakhs. I have triple checked this data published on the PMO’s website. The Hon’ble Prime Minister declared more than Rs. 89,000 as cash in hand. When did all these Ministers go to banks or whom did they send to deposit these amounts and when, are very important question that every citizen must ask.
4) 6 Cabinet Ministers and 5 Ministers of State have not included “cash in hand” data in their declarations, to the best of my knowledge.

Disclosing such information will not be a violation of privacy of the Ministers

Citizens can use The Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI Act) to ask the Central Government such questions without worrying about violating the right to privacy of the Ministers. In August 2015, the Central Government got the Attorney General of India (AGI) to question a catena of judgements of the Supreme Court that the right to privacy was a fundamental right. In a bunch of matters challenging the actions of the Government to make Aadhaar Unique Identification compulsory for a range of services and welfare programmes, the AGI put this question to the Apex Court. The Hon’ble Supreme Court felt persuaded to refer the matter to a Constitution Bench to determine whether people in India indeed have a constitutionally guaranteed right to privacy. I have commented about this issue extensively last year.
Given these facts, in my humble opinion, the Government’s view is that there is no fundamental right to privacy for anybody including for Ministers under the Constitution. So Section 8(1)(j) of the RTI Act which was designed to protect personal information from being disclosed leading to unwarranted invasion of the privacy of an individual, becomes an unreasonable restriction on the fundamental right to information which is a part of the right to freedom of speech end expression guaranteed under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution. So, there should be no legal bar on providing answers to the information sought in the two queries listed above.
Readers may kindly note that I am not making any allegations of “black money” or money that is not accounted for in the declarations of Ministers. However in a country whose national motto is satyameva jayate (truth alone shall triumph) and given the BJP’s latest step to demand transparency from its own MPs, citizens should push the envelope towards greater transparency of Ministers and other elected representatives.
Information about how much “cash in hand” was declared by candidates who got elected as MPs and MLAs is available on the dedicated website being maintained by the Association for Democratic Reforms- http://myneta.info/. Readers might like to ask similar questions from MPs and MLAs belonging to all political parties.

*Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, New Delhi

Comments

TRENDING

Women for Water: WICCI resource council for empowering women entrepreneurs, leaders

By Mansee Bal Bhargava*  The Water Resources Council of the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry is formed for 2022-24. A National Business Chamber for Women, the Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry ( WICCI ) is a premier association empowering women entrepreneurs and leaders in all walks of life through advocacy, pro-active representations to government, implementing projects for women via funds allocated by various government agencies and corporates, plus bringing awareness on all issues that concern women. WICCI boosts and builds women’s entrepreneurship and businesses through greater engagement with government, institutions, global trade and networks. WICCI enables fundamental changes in governmental policies, laws, incentives and sanctions through proper channel, with a view to robustly encourage and empower women in business, industry and commerce across all sectors. WICCI is supported by the massive global networks of ALL Ladies League (ALL), Women Eco

75 yrs of water in India: whither decentralised governance to sustain the precious resource?

By Shubhangi Rai, Megha Gupta, Fawzia Tarannum, Mansee Bal Bhargava Looking into the last century, water resources management have come a long way from the living with water in the villages to the nimbyism and capitalism in the cities to coming full cycle with room for water in the villages. With the climate change induced water crisis, the focus on conservation and management of water resources if furthered in both national and local agenda. The Water management 2021 report by NITI Aayog acknowledges that water and sustainability are of immense importance for the sustenance of life on earth. Water is intricately linked to the health, food security and livelihood. With business as usual, India’s water availability will only be enough to meet 50% of its total demand and 40% of the population in India will have no access to drinking water and sanitation by 2030 . Its Composite Water Management Index 2021 states that ‘India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and mil

CAG’s audit report creates a case for dismantling of UIDAI, scrapping Aadhaar

By Gopal Krishna  The total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project and its cost: benefit analysis has not been disclosed till date. Unless the total estimated budget of the project is revealed, all claims of benefits are suspect and untrustworthy. How can one know about total savings unless the total cost is disclosed? Can limited audit of continuing expenditure of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), an instrumentality of Union of India be deemed a substitute for total estimated budget of the biometric UID/Aadhaar number project of UIDAI? It has been admitted by CAG that the audit of functioning of the UIDAI is partial because of non-transparency. The report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India arising from performance audit of functioning of the UIDAI for the period from 2014-15 to 2018-19 is incomplete because it is based on statistical information “to the extent as furnished by UIDAI” upto March 2021. There is also a need to compa

Grassroot innovations in water management: Policy challenges amidst climate change

By Shubhangi Rai[1], Megha Gupta[2], Mansee Bal Bhargava[3] India despite of having a vast traditional water management history continue to struggle with water crisis from disasters like floods and droughts but more with social distress leading to asymmetric access to water goods and services. The rising water crisis in a country that is abundant in water resources and wisdom is worth questioning and resolving. The knowledge that was passed on by our ancestors who used a diverse range of structures that helped harvest rainwater locally besides replenish and recharge the groundwater along the way. Formal and informal rules were locally crafted by the community on who to use the water, how much to use, when to use, how to penalise for misuse, how to resolve conflicts and many more. As a nation, we need to revive our dying wisdom of the traditional water management systems and as water commons, enable the governing mechanisms towards sustainability. In the session on ‘ Grassroot Innovatio

Need to destroy dowry, annihilate greed and toxic patriarchy in India

By IMPRI Team Talking about an evil ever-persistent in our society and highlighting the presence of toxic patriarchy, #IMPRI Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi organized a panel discussion on Destroy Dowry: Annihilation of Greed and Toxic Patriarchy in India under the series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps on May 4, 2022. The chair for the event was Prof Vibhuti Patel, Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai and a Visiting Professor, IMPRI. The distinguished panel included – Asha Kulkarni, General Secretary at Anti Dowry Movement, Mumbai ; Kamal Thakar, Sahiyar Stree Sangathan ; Adv Celin Thomas, Advocate at Celin Thomas and Associates, Bengaluru; Shalini Mathur, Honorary Secretary, Suraksha Dahej Maang Virodhi Sanstha Tatha Parivar Paraamarsh Kendra, Lucknow and Secretary, Nav Kalyani Foundation, Gender Resource and Training Centre; and Dr Bharti Sharma, Honorary Secretary, Shakti Shalini

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and emerging geopolitics

By IMPRI Team In the backdrop of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, #IMPRI Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi hosted a panel discussion on Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Implications for India and Emerging Geopolitics. The event was chaired by Ambassador Anil Trigunayat (IFS Retd.), Former Ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Libya, and Malta; Former Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Moscow. The panelists of the event were Prof Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu, Clinical Professor, Center for Global Affairs, New York University; H.E. Freddy Svane, Ambassador, Royal Danish Embassy, New Delhi; Maj. Gen. (Dr) P. K. Chakravorty, Strategic Thinker on Security Issues; and T. K. Arun, Senior Journalist, and Columnist. Ambassador Anil Trigunayat commenced the discussion by stating the fact that wars are evil. He opines that no war has ever brought peace and prosperity to any country and

Making Indian cities disaster, climate resilient: Towards actionable urban planning

By IMPRI Team  Three-Day Online Certificate Training Programme on “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”: Day 1 A three day Online Certificate Training Programme on the theme “Making Indian Cities Disaster and Climate Change Resilient: Towards Responsive and Actionable Urban Planning, Policy and Development”, a joint initiative of the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) , Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, was held at the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi. Inaugurating the session Ms. Karnika Arun, Researcher at IMPRI, welcomed the speakers and participants to the program with an introduction to the eminent panellists. Day 1 of the program included Prof Anil K Gupta, Head ECDRM, NIDM, New Delhi and Mr Tikender Singh Panwar, Former Deputy Mayor, Shimla; Visiting Senior Fellow, IMPRI as conveners, an

Gender gap: Women face disproportionate barriers in accessing finance

By IMPRI Team Women worldwide disproportionately face barriers to financial access that prevents them from participating in the economy and improving their lives. Providing access to finance for women is crucial for financial inclusion and, consequently, inclusive growth. To deliberate and encourage dialogue and discussion for growth, the Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC) of IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi, organized a web policy talk by Mr S. S. Bhat, Chief Executive Officer Friends of Women’s World Banking India, Ahmedabad on ‘Access to Finance for Women’ as a part of its series The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. The session was started by the moderator, Chavi Jain, by introducing the speaker and the discussants and inviting Prof. Vibhuti Patel to start the deliberation. Importance of access to finance for women Prof. Vibhuti Patel, Visiting Professor, IMPRI, New Delhi; Former Professor, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, began by expre

Impact of climate change on Gujarat pastoralists' traditional livelihood

By Varsha Bhagat-Ganguly, Karen Pinerio* We are sharing a study[1] based learning on climate resilience and adaptation strategies of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat. There are two objectives of the study: (i) to examine the impact of climate on traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Gujarat state; and (ii) to explore and document the adaptation strategies of pastoralists in mitigating climate adversities, with a focus on the role of women in it. In order to meet these objectives, the research inquiries focused on how pastoralists perceive climate change, how climate change has impacted their traditional livelihood, i.e., pastoralism in drylands (Krätli 2015), and how these pastoral families have evolved adaptation strategies that address climate change (CC)/ variabilities, i.e., traditional livelihood of pastoralists of Kachchh district, Gujarat state. Pastoralism is more than 5,000 years old land-use strategy in India; it is practised by nomadic (their entire livelihood r

How India, Bangladesh perceive, manage Sunderbans amidst climate change

By IMRPI Team The effects of climate change have been evident, and there have been a lot of debates around the changes to be made locally to help and save the earth. In this light, the nations met at the COP 26 conference recently. To discuss this further, the Center for Environment, Climate Change and Sustainable Development (CECCSD) , IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi , organized a panel discussion on “COP 26 and Locally Led Adaptations in India and Bangladesh Sunderbans” under the #WebPolicyTalk series- The State of the Environment – #PlanetTalks . The talk was chaired by Dr Jayanta Basu, Director, Non-profit EnGIO, Faculty at Calcutta University and an Environmental Journalist, The Telegraph , ABP . The Moderator of the event, Dr Simi Mehta, CEO and Editorial Director, IMPRI , started the discussion by stressing the talk on the living conditions of people living in the Sunderbans Delta from both the countries, i.e. India and Bangladesh. According to the report