The Underworld of Lawlessness

By Nita Chicooree-Mercier

 Global Financial Integrity ranks India as the eighth largest victim of black money losses with a colossal amount of $ 123 billion over a period of ten years from 2001 to 2010. If this report is to be believed, India would figure as the only South Asian country in the top twenty list of such nations. In 2010 alone the loss is said to have amounted to $ 1.6 billion. China tops the list as the country suffered a loss of $ 2.74 trillion over the last decade, followed by Mexico, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Phillipines and Nigeria.

Going by what has been stated, notwithstanding significant progress in various sectors, India might be continuing to lose large amounts of wealth in illicit financial outflows. Money going to illicit channels could have been productively invested in education, health and improving infrastructure; This sort of improvement is much needed, considering for instance that a power grid electrical blackout left over 300 million inhabitants in total darkness and paralyzed economic activities. It could just as well have served to mitigate the scourge of poverty plaguing the country for decades and pushing the poorest of this lot to join ranks with armed rebels in uprisings which might escalate into a real internal security threat.

Has black money really been lost? Or rather safely stashed in private individual names in foreign banks abroad to be withdrawn for private use? We do not know. Has it been set aside to ensure a lifelong opulent lifestyle characterized by lavish spending for oneself and family clans, and to invest in lucrative business abroad? It is being said that 14 members of the UPA-Congress led Parliament may be having criminal records hanging over their heads. There are allegations that anti-Congress criticism has disappeared in most English-language papers and that black money might have been channeled towards patronage network and public image-building exercises. These however are the sorts of allegations political parties hurl at each other and nothing is known for certain until facts are thrashed out to disentangle them from fiction and political propaganda.

Curtailing illicit financial outflows of money is however a goal which need to be pursued against political parties from all sides of the political spectrum. It may set in motion a process by which better support could be extended to the people who are in need. One can get to this kind of objective by promoting standards of good governance across all political parties in India.

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According to a Court ruling, street hawkers are not allowed to trade in the immediate vicinity of the central market. Street hawkers appear not minded to abide by this decision of the court, the more so as this is their peak selling season for them.

When the police took to executing the court’s judgement, they appear to have been prevented from doing their work by two MPs. Were the MPs interfering in the carrying out of its duty by the police force? It looks to be the case. Have the recent municipal election results emboldened the two MPs to defy the law? It would be interesting to know what are their views about the court’s decision.

The public will stand by the government if it shows its determination to bring a solution to the whole affair by respecting the law but providing just as well alternative solutions which do justice to the street hawkers while being in the public interest insofar as court decisions are at all times respected. Unfortunately, political expediency creates exceptions at times which become the rule. Well thought-out solutions for the long term help avoid confusions which have arisen in the current case.

* Published in print edition on 21 December 2012

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