The Dharmayudh Against Black Money and the Political Gimmick of the Opposition

Sunil Sharma

Modi has started a jihad, er … sorry, dharmayudh against black money for the poor! Really ? At least the PM claims so. But the country, after his government’s decision of demonetizing 500-1000 rupee currencies seems still not able to come out of the turmoil. Particularly noticeable is the fact that the so-called common masses – the lower rung of society, the workers and toilers and the lower middle-class is still to absorb the sudden jerk created by the  government’s decision and is still running in search of ATMs or banks to get some cash for their daily living. Amidst this there is the usual obnoxious mud-slinging of the political parties. Bunches of leaders on both sides, the ruling parties and the opposition, are creating so much commotion that instead of enabling us to comprehend the real essence of this dharmayudh, it only serves the purpose of creating diversion. While the opposition leaders are ridiculously trying to put up a pretence of great concern for the public, they seem to be unashamedly oblivious of their own putrid, corrupt past.  On the other hand the Modi led BJP-NDA government is posing as a great anti black-money crusader, once again invoking the masses in the name of “desh bhakti” through slogans like ‘aap note nahin badal rahe hain, desh badal rahe hain’.

To understand the truth let us leave aside this mud-slinging of the leaders. What  matters much more is how in actual terms does this demonetization of `500 and 1000 currencies act as an effective step against the huge amount of black money in circulation in the country’s economy and linked to it abroad? Lots as public perception prevails, who frequently come face to face with abundance of corrupt local traders, thekedars, political leaders, the real estate dealers and promoters, the government officials pocketing sweeteners etc in every step of their daily lives. They are always victims of it. Many are now feeling that up till now it there have been only talks and promises about getting hold of black money and it is now only with this demonetization move the government has acted for the first time in some way. The question naturally arises, will that corrupt money, which the rulers of this capitalist system in our country term as “black money”, be actually recovered from this move? And if black money is really recovered with that will corruption be eradicated from society? Will the sources of black money be eradicated also thus putting an end to further generation of it?  Even the advanced, rich countries like the United States have still not been able to become cashless and in our country till now 53% of the people do not have even bank accounts. How much truth is there in such promises of the ruling party leaders, the Prime Minister, that cashless society will be a black money ridden society? And how much is it possible to become a cashless country? Is there some other motive behind such talks and promises? There are many such questions that need to be thought over.

But in this article only one question related to this black money puzzle is being put forward for the readers, that is, standing on which society and economy is Prime Minister Modi talking of launching an all-out fight against black money? And in relation to that what does his demonetization move in effect amount to? In terms of amount actually it is miniscule in relation to the total black money quantum, miniscule in comparison with the safer possessions of gold, jewellery, real estate properties and investments that are generally acquired using black money within the country and abroad. Estimates say it is just 6% of the total black money amount.  Considering the big corporate’s share in this black money accumulation puzzle — a study by Global Finance Integrity estimates big capitalists’ corporate tax evasion is responsible for 60% of overall black income, criminal activities are responsible for 35%, while corruption, which has caused much furore in India, accounts for only 5%. Even the percentage which is involved in criminal activities is tied in many ways to the official ‘white’ economy and it gives rise to emergence of new capitalist empires based on the power and clout of their fraudulently acquired capital. This is one of the known paths of accumulation and emergence of official ‘white’ capital and its owner. It is really surprising to see that till yesterday tax evasions of myriad varieties adopted by the corporate big capitalists like round-tripping, over and under invoicing, utilizing tax-havens in foreign lands was at the centre of the black money being targeted for recovery. Even the established celebrities of this society like film stars, players, politicians, officials stash money abroad in tax-havens and dubious companies which were much in the discussion for bringing back the black money.  Then why suddenly target a 6% black money sector within the country and that also in monetary notes leaving aside the bigger 60% and even 35% sectors?

Further when we are talking of acting against corrupt, usurped money, naturally we are also faced with the question, is it “black money” as defined by the prevailing laws as “unaccounted money for which tax has not been paid” that is only corrupt and carrying out fraud on the people of this society?  What about lobbying, nepotism, kick-offs to acquire arms manufacturers’ or other capitalists’ contracts? Facts show that capitalism co-opts many of this unaccounted and hence black money into the official system legalizing them within its fold in the name of “transparency”. Thus lobbying for contracts, as Nira Radia did on behalf of Reliance and TATA,  to influence the government on the 2-G, 3-G spectrum issues (even ministers were sought to be changed) is illegal in this country while it is legal in the US. Similarly lobbying in elections for a candidate through financial help and promotion occurs in India as an openly secret event while in a number of developed countries the capitalists openly finance their chosen candidates. Many such restrictions of law that existed till a few years back even within this country has been withdrawn or relaxed by the government for the benefit of the capitalists viz – regarding money remittances abroad, investing in the country without disclosing identity (p-notes), amnesty schemes declared from time to time for depositing black money converting it into so-called white with minimum of tax and punishment. The capitalist media themselves discuss about eminent people of the capitalist officialdom like Kaushik Basu, the chief economist of the World Bank and former chief economic adviser to the Indian government, claiming that he has devised a particularly clever and radical way of rooting out corruption – legalising bribery.

In such a reality of all pervasive spread of black-white, round-tripping and by-passing to accumulate wealth and capital, Modi government’s demonetization move is merely a mockery of what should be done to really weed out “black money”, a diversion from what is really sucking and draining out the society, the masses, without questioning the very way of functioning of the capitalist system as a whole.  That is why after much tough postures and grunting in defense of  demonetization and warnings of  further actions for a month the government had to declare another ‘fair and lovely scheme’. A few years ago another  established economist Bibek Debroy, one of the important members of the Modi government’s  Niti Aayog, did not hesitate to say – “I hate the terms ‘black economy’ and ‘black money’,”….. “Their use suggests that the world of finance is neatly divided into black and white, and the twain never meet. The distinction between the colours of money is actually blurring — black becomes white and vice-versa.” [24 September 2011, The Unhurried Man’s Guide to Black Money, BY Alam Srinivas, The Open Magazine]. Hence those who are truly against unfairly accumulated, usurped money, they must also come out recognizing accumulation of this as an inherent, endemic disease of capitalism, whether be it illegal or legal, in accordance with the diverse laws that differ from country to country. Thus stealing a line from Shakespeare – for capitalism it can be aptly said, “Fair is foul and foul is fair, Hover through the fog and filthy air”.

But in recognizing that they must note that even the capitalist system throughout the world is often heard to criticize the unbridled amassing of wealth and properties by a few, against “casino capitalism” making quick money through loot and gamble, against the decline of the condition of the masses everywhere – the increasing gap between those called “filthily rich” and the pauperized masses. The stolen asset recovery initiative, a programme of the World Bank and the United Nations, has estimated that cross-border flows of global proceeds of financial crimes total between $1 trillion and $ 1.6 trillion a year. Recent critiques by Thomas Piketty like intellectuals express concern about it, attempting to reform this prevailing system. The concerns about increasing Gini coefficients have been seen to reverberate throughout even the official capitalist echelons. Recently India has also been picked up for becoming a country having an increasingly big gulf between the rich-poor divide.

But has all these stopped present day capitalism from such practices?  It has remained as mere lip service or for adoption of reform measures to legalise and sanctify robbery and usurpation. Last year, it was Swiss Leaks, a global list with over 1,100 Indians with secret bank accounts in HSBC Geneva, which shaped the debate over black money parked overseas. This year it is the Panama Papers. 415 Indians are under scanner containing names as big in the established, official ‘white’ money  society as  names of Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwariya Rai, DLF promoter K P Singh, industrialist Gautam Adani’s brother Vinod Adani – capitalists, filmstars, politicians. Speculation and quick money-making through windfall gains and storing the money in tax liberal off-shore havens is the norm of the present times. This endemic disease of capitalist globalised society and the world at large is spreading more and more to which the capitalist states have no answer.

Hence it is from here that one should start the unmasking of further truth about capitalism, its genesis, turning a blind eye to which, there can never be freedom  from corrupt money, property, amassing of wealth usurped from others, whether it be legal or not. Accumulation of wealth by looting and usurping the fruits of labour of others is the rule of the game called capitalism.  In its early years at the start of 20th century in the US there were the investigative journalists who were exposing the corrupt ways of loot of capitalist companies like Standard Oil Co, journalists who were referred by Roosevelt era rulers as “muckrakers”. There were a string of writers Upton Sinclair of The Jungle fame et al who wrote exposing the corrupt capitalist system. And in the 21st century oligarchy through the Occupy Wall Street agitation in the US the masses revealed, the ‘we are the 99%’ raising their voice against the unbridled loot of the giant corporate, and financial oligarchy. In this country also we are witnessing the fleecing of the masses based on unilateral monopoly powers of exorbitant pricing and control over production and market as the Enron electricity production episode, the exploiting agri-business seed and fertilizer global giants or KG-basin like gas pricing and control on production.

So if one is against corruption and fraudulent amassing of wealth at the expense of society, its masses, instead of just running blindly after some red herring of so-called “black money” in the `500 and `1000 currencies demonetization they must question the corporatocracy on which capitalism stands today, and in turn the basis of capitalism which nurtures, protects and goes on promoting its loot and exploitation without which it can never survive. In such a society without questioning the capitalist system and its increasing ‘casino’ character, the gambles and loots that are ruining the masses, without carrying out the ‘surgical strike ‘ against the corporate loot can there ever be any real fight against black money? Won’t the supporters of this demonetization move of Modi regime or those concerned with the harassments of the common masses in unison with the opposition mud-slingers, question these leaders on both sides that why do not they have the courage to utter a word about  the role of the corporates in the black money syndrome created by them? Do we not need to expose these fake crusaders against black- money and the political gimmick of the opposition?