Sunday 29 June 2014

Team Modi must protect Prime Minister’s image (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.
Those who have been given positions of high responsibility by the PM need to protect his name from getting affected by errors they sometimes make.

PM Narendra Modi
imple but direct, India's first post-Nehruvian Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi takes seriously his core mantra of minimum government and maximum governance. In the month that has gone by, there has been a fundamental change in the chemistry of Delhi. For very long, in fact ever since Indira Gandhi fell in a fusillade of bullets on 31 October 1984, there has been a virtual vacuum where it came to the existence of a government in India that had a clear focus and leadership. There has very rarely been the perception of a unified command authority atop Raisina Hill, only discrete groups who each took care of their own turf. This fragmentation of governance became most pronounced during the decade when Manmohan Singh was in charge. Ministers such as P. Chidambaram, A.K. Antony or Sushilkumar Shinde acted as though the ministries under their command were in substance the entire Government of India, so that the government became a bundle of silos headed by solo players refusing to integrate into the coordinated entity that the Government of India needs to be.
On 26 May this changed. Although the Prime Minister is largely unseen, surfacing only through tweets or in the brief intervals when he meets some dignitary or the other, it is clear that there is finally an individual in charge of the entire government, and that the GOI has become a unified field rather than a scatter of silos. Whether it be the holding of secretary-level meetings without an accompanying cacophony of ministerial voices, or ensuring that the horde of fixers and dealers in the National Capital Region, who masquerade as private secretaries or personal assistants to ministers, the new Prime Minister has imprinted his stamp on the entire machinery of governance in a way seen only during the periods when Jawaharlal Nehru or Indira Gandhi was in charge. Gone is the public panic that was present at what was considered to be a governance vacuum in the country, especially since the Commonwealth Games scam exploded in 2010.
In view of this columnist, it will be at least September before the full outlines of the Modi Model of all-India governance emerge from the mind of a workaholic who regards a 16-hour day as a light schedule. Civil servants inhabiting the warren of offices scattered across Delhi must never have believed that a time would come when coming to work at 9.30 a.m. was seen as late or when a day with a work component of less than 12 hours was considered a mark of shirking. Prime Minister Modi has a roster of tasks, each with a timeline and the face of the individual expected to carry it out.
Certainly, within the next few months if not weeks, a completed team capable of carrying out the 21st century vision of the country's new Prime Minister will form. Some will be new entrants, hopefully not entirely from within the portals of the administrative services, but from business, academics and broader civil society as well. After all, if ISRO is doing so much better than DRDO, surely at least a part of the reason must be the fact that the Department of Space is headed by an expert, but the officialdom of the Ministry of Defence is headed by a generalist civil servant. If experts such as M.S. Swaminathan or Anil Kakodkar were not given the administrative leeway that comes from heading departments relevant to their fields of endeavour, the country would have been the loser.
However, some in his team may themselves have smudged his image, by careless actions that are casually exposed in public. An example is the Home Ministry circular that had the potential to revive divisions over language that had been dormant since 1965. Fortunately, the PMO stepped in to douse the fire caused by the Home Ministry. Yet another embarrassment has been the Gopal Subramanium episode, when the IB and the CBI fell over each other to collect evidence of the former Solicitor-General's "unsuitability" for elevation to the Supreme Court, throwing up such laughable objections as the jurist asking the Divine for guidance (which deist does not?) or his knowing a lady PR specialist who has been close to several VVIPs cutting across parties, including more than a few in the present dispensation.
The Hindi circular was the brainchild of Home Minister Rajnath Singh, while the animus towards Gopal Subramanium has been traced to a former law minister in the UPA who is close to two ministers in the NDA council of ministers, and who apparently persuaded others to launch a series of media leaks targeting the former Solicitor-General, to discomfort from the general public at such character assassination. Those who have been given positions of high responsibility by Prime Minister Modi need to protect his name from getting affected by errors they sometimes make. A continuance of the sky-high image of Narendra Modi is crucial to his ensuring the cooperation of both officials and the public in his drive to raise growth rates to two digits, hopefully to the 15% level reached in China during some of the Deng years. Should he succeed, that would not just be a great legacy, but more importantly, the means of deliverance from effective poverty for 700 million of our citizens, as at present, less than 500 million have a standard of life that can be considered even barely adequate by any civilised standard.

12 Foreign Nationals behind stir against power (Sunday Guardian)

MADHAV NALAPAT  New Delhi | 28th Jun 2014
enior officials reporting to the Ministry of Home Affairs have identified 12 individuals who are considered the prime movers in the ongoing all-India campaign by a few NGOs to "slow down and finally stop" thermal power generation in India. This is according to those investigating the activities of the dozen principal foreign activists (six from the US, four from the UK and one each from Canada and New Zealand) during their frequent visits to this country. According to a senior official, the game plan is to "force the closure of existing thermal power plants, while ensuring through agitations and litigation that new plants do not get set up". Along with this, they have masterminded a drive against coal mining in India, despite the fact that in their countries of origin, mining (including coal) is among the most major of industries.
Some of the NGOs associated with the agitation against both coal mining as well as thermal and nuclear power plants are linked to commercial interests in their countries of origin. An example is Greenpeace, "which is promoting the solar energy equipment of the US-based Zemlin Surface Optical Corporation" in Bihar, a prime target of several foreign NGOs eager to shut down extractive and energy industries in that impoverished state.
Of the 12 names in the list of key foreign players in anti-thermal and nuclear power and anti-coal and uranium mining activities in India, eight are from Greenpeace: Paul Horseman, Greg Muttitt, Emma Gibson, Grace Boyle, Daniel Pentzlin, Lauri Myllyvirta, Owen Pascoe and Carmen Cravatt. Three are from the Sierra Club: Matthew Phillips, Justin Guay and Rosemary Forest. The twelfth, Mike Zemlin works on behalf of Surface Optics. The Manmohan Singh government had "ignored the evidence linking them and other foreign nationals to several hundred agitations" against power plants and mining locations, according to an official investigating their activities, who added that "thus far, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has not initiated any action to check the activities of such NGOs".
Senior officials say that sections of the local population are "intensively targeted by these foreign nationals, who have (by now) developed a cadre of Indian sympathisers who join with them" in generating protest movements against key economic targets. They give the example of a Dutch-funded NGO, Cordaid, which in the guise of preventing atrocities against women in the Northeast, "has (in actuality) been training and leading agitations against oil prospecting in Manipur and uranium mining in Meghalaya, besides hydropower dams in Arunachal Pradesh". They have been working both directly as well as through local NGOs such as Core in Manipur and WING in Meghalaya, besides another named RWUS.
An oil expert working in the government said that "crude oil reserves in Manipur are enough to reduce India's oil import bill by 40%, provided more domestic players are allowed to prospect for oil in potential locations and given freedom to operate". He said that during the UPA period, "neither was the private company involved able to resume oil drilling nor was the Central government interested in creating the conditions needed for them to do so". Another official said that exploration work ought to be "given to more companies than just the Jubilant Group so that more fields get developed". He warned that four foreign NGOs in particular have been active since 2006 ensuring that a hostile climate gets created among the public, "even though the oil industry once developed can make Manipur the richest state in the Union".
A key official from the state warned that "foreign NGOs have developed considerable expertise in using the legal system in India in order to slow down and stop economic activities across various parts of India", by using the services of locals to file cases and generate adverse publicity about such activities. He said that "the Manmohan Singh government was more interested in buying oil from abroad and in getting uranium from outside" than in ensuring the proper exploitation of oilfields and uranium mines in the Northeast.
Information received by investigative agencies suggest that foreign nationals working for large NGOs have, over the years, forged close ties with key journalists as well as senior officials dealing with the indigenous industries that are being sought to get blocked by such forces. Although mounting evidence against Cordaid finally forced the Manmohan Singh government to finally ban the Dutch-funded NGO from working in India, the organisation appears to have got around the ban by funding the travel of key local activists to locations such as New York, Bangkok and Geneva, where "they were given training in ways to shut down operations of plants by both street protests as well as in routing such opposition through the courts and media".
An activist said that uranium mining in Meghalaya and oil drilling in Manipur, besides hydropower generation in Arunachal Pradesh, are all on the list of activities sought to be banned by the foreign NGOs freely operating across the concerned regions. "Even some top officials in Delhi do not want action to be taken against such NGOs", a state government employee in Meghalaya said, adding that "some officers use these NGOs to get scholarships for their children to study abroad, and thereby do their bidding". He warned that certain NGOs have used locations such as Bangkok or Hong Kong to train Indian nationals in GPS mapping as well as in GIS systems, so that they may identify locations and pass on the information to foreign funders.
Several officers pointed out that the intention of the NGOs was to deny India the electricity it needs for faster growth, pointing out that "even hydropower plants are being opposed (as in Arunachal Pradesh) while replacing thermal and nuclear power plants with solar energy was impossible" in a context where the cost of such systems is high and availability low. "The foreign nationals going around the country trying to block energy production know that this will reduce growth and create massive unemployment and social unrest". However, his colleague said that "their expertise is in ensuring agitations", adding that "several of these foreign nationals talk openly of how they have paralysed life in several locations in order to take down a functioning enterprise", thereby causing unemployment and income loss.
Scare stories are common, such as the recent fear created in Vidarbha (where Greenpeace and other NGOs seek to stop thermal plants from operating) that these plants would "suck away water from the land so that farmers would starve".
The anti-development agenda of such NGOs was given a fillip in July 2012, when a conference in Istanbul took place. The purpose was to devise ways of "taking down existing power plants and stopping the building of new ones", according to a former activist, who said that the Indian volunteers were trained to "spread hatred and fear of thermal and nuclear plants by linking them to death and disease", and to stop mining of coal, uranium and other natural resources. "We were explicitly taught methods of agitation and media management, as well as given expertise in the filing of cases in courts across the country", the activist said. Among the NGOs taking part in the Istanbul anti-industry conclave were Greenpeace, Climate Works Foundation and World Resources Institute. The conference decided to target both India and China, although the NGOs clearly find it much easier to operate in the former country. Incidentally, a website ( has detailed maps of both India and China showing the location of facilities against which agitations need to be launched.
The Intelligence Bureau got awakened to the growing menace to growth and social stability caused by foreign NGOs after they succeeded in halting the commissioning of the Koodankulam II reactor just before start-up. "For 20 years they were silent, but moved just when electric power would begin to flow to the grid from the Koodankulam plant", said a local official, adding that "religious charities with ties to France were hyperactive in funding the protests". As soon as the government cut off funding, the agitation stopped, thereby demonstrating the close link between agitation and foreign cash.
"We need to create 15 million new jobs every year and cannot do this unless the legal and other blockages created by foreign NGOs and their local partners get cleared", warned an official, adding that "we expect Home Minister Rajnath Singh to wake up to this reality before more time goes by, so that blocked projects resume".
Supporters of Greenpeace and other foreign NGOs active in India scoff at the fears expressed by the agencies, saying that all they are doing is to "ensure that the people of India live in a clean, green environment". They say that to consider such activities anti-national is to "indulge in paranoia and xenophobia", adding that the foreign nationals working in India "love your country and want to help it avoid the mistakes of the West".

Saturday 28 June 2014

Prasad defies Supreme Court (Pakistan Observer)

M D Nalapat
Friday, June 27, 2014 - Ravi Shankar Prasad, Union Law Minister of India since May 26,2014, is both a brilliant lawyer as well as a shrewd politician. Since 1993,the Supreme Court has made itself independent of the executive by decreeing that a Collegium composed of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India (SC) and the four senior most judges of the Court would have the exclusive right to nominate judges to the court. In 1998,this right was reiterated by the Court when a reference about its maintainability was made by then President of India,K R Narayanan. It needs to be stressed that the Constitution of India nowhere mentions such a system, and indeed this columnist (in the Sunday Guardian) has characterised the Collegium system as being based on an “invisible” constitution (which was relied on by the then Chief Justice J S Verma in 1993 when he introduced the Collegium system through an SC judgement).

Since that time, every elected Government of India has chafed under the system, because of the fact that it had - because of Chief Justice Verma’s historic verdict - got zero power over the Court. Over the past two decades, the Supreme Court of India has passed judgement after judgment which has gone completely contrary to the wishes of the government. Indeed,several verdicts of the Court have led to a situation of crisis and even paralysis in the functioning of the government. Fear of the Supreme Court was among the primary reasons why the previous government led by Manmohan Singh slowed down decision-taking to a crawl. Hundreds of projects have been held up or scrapped by court verdicts, and thus far the government has had to stomach such verdicts as the Collegium system made the highest court in the land impervious to the influence of the Government of India Prime Minister Narendra Modi won the 2014 elections because voters believed that he would provide decisive governance, unlike the Sonia-Manmohan duo, who floundered from crisis to crisis, in the process holding up projects and speedy decisions which are essential to high rates of growth. Manmohan Singh, and Sonia Gandhi were timid to the point of paralysis when it came to any project or policy which got adverse mention in even a television channel. The consequence was that entire industries went into decline because of policy paralysis, while overall the annual rate of growth of the economy fell by half from its earlier level of 9%. Clearly, Law Minister Prasad was of the view that the obstacles to the smooth and speedy functioning of the government needed to get removed, and for this to happen, the powers of the government had to get restored to the same elevated levels that were extant during the periods in office of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi, two Prime Ministers who were known to take untrammelled and decisive action whenever they judged it necessary. A week ago, the Modi government made legal history by refusing to endorse a name unanimously approved by the Supreme Court Collegium for appointment as a judge of the highest court in the land.

Former Solicitor-General Gopal Subramanium was recommended for elevation, but the Law Ministry disagreed, and conveyed its view to the Court. The decision ( to reject the name of Gopal Subramanium as Judge of the Supreme Court) was taken by Law Minister Prasad and not the Prime Minister, who merely ratified the same. News reports have placed the onus of the decision on the PM, but Narendra Modi is known to have immense respect for the judiciary and hence it is difficult to believe that he would have taken the initiative in blocking the choice of an individual who was the unanimous choice for judgeship of the Chief Justice of India as well as the four senior most judges of the Court. However, the PM decided to stand by his Law Minister in the matter. Of the four names recommended by the Collegium, only three names were forwarded to the President of India, who issued the warrants of appointment after getting only these names for such appointment.

By the information available to this columnist, Gopal Subramanium is an outstanding lawyer with a reputation for independence and integrity. But it is no surprise that the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gave negative verdicts about him, for since Gopal Subramanium gave a written opinion in 2007 about Lord Ram,among the most venerated of names in the mythology of India and considered God by the Hindu community. Then the Additional Solicitor-General, he presented the view of the Archaelogical Survey of

India (ASI) that there was no concrete evidence to establish the existence of Lord Ram and other figures mentioned in the ancient epic, the Mahabharata. This affidavit, which was considered heretical by many Hindus (and incidentally Gopal Subramanium is a devout Hindu), created such a public uproar that it was hurriedly withdrawn by the Manmohan Singh government, despite its aversion to Hindutva and its obsessive focus on minorities rather than on the Hindu majority.

It is difficult to enter into the thinking of Law Minister when he refused to accept the unanimous recommendation of the Supreme Court of India to make the distinguished lawyer Gopal Subramanium a judge of the Supreme Court. Should he be made a judge, he would become Chief Justice of India within nine years,in accordance with the principle of seniority. However, it is clear that by Subramanium’s affidavit forwarding an ASI report which cast doubt on the existence of Lord Ram, the former Solicitor-General fell foul of several devout Hindus, the core constituency of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Hence the Law Minster’s decision has been greeted with appreciation by this huge group of voters. However, the to reject a name suggested by the Collegium goes far beyond Gopal Subramanium. The innuendos made against the former Solicitor-General so distressed him that he asked Chief Justice Lodha of the Supreme Court to withdraw his name from consideration as an SC judge. The matter is now back in the court of the Collegium of the Supreme Court of India.

Should the Collegium accept the Law Ministry stance that Gopal Subramanium remain on the Bar rather than move to the Bench (in the manner decided upon by the Supreme Court Collegium), the consequences would be immense of such an outcome on both the speed as well the chemistry of governance, as well as on the relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary in India. After first getting a veto on judicial appointments through securing for itself the power to reject Collegium recommendations, the next step would logically be a return to the earlier system of the Executive deciding who will be judges of the High Courts and the Supreme Court, both institutions that are respected in India for their quality and competence.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Interview with MD Nalapat: Expert: Global Grand Alliance Needed Against Wahhabi Terror (Huffington Post)

Cleo Paskal, Huffington Post. Posted:

Indian Strategist Prof. M D Nalapat, UNESCO Peace Chair and Editorial Director of the Sunday Guardian, has an unusually spot-on record for predicting trends in the Middle East. He was in New York City on September 11, 2001, having just warned that the U.S. was likely to be targeted. At the start of the Arab Spring, he was already predicting a 'Wahhabi Winter.' And he foresaw the current catastrophic situation in Libya from the early days of the conflict, as well as the potential for extremists spillover from Syria to its neighbors. This is what he has to say about Iraq.

How did we get to where we are today in Iraq?

Via Benghazi and Aleppo. The 2011 decision by NATO member-states to arm, train and finance those willing to physically battle first against Muammar Gaddafi and subsequently against Bashar Assad set in train a series of events that have led to the present crisis in Iraq. The U.S. and its European allies ought to have understood that the goal of states such as Turkey, Qatar or Saudi Arabia was not to ensure that democracy dawned on Libya or Syria when it was still absent in their own countries, but the removal of those they saw as apostates: Muammar Gaddafi and Bashar Assad.

Those who have read Gaddafi's writings and speeches know that he was a foe of Wahhabism, which he (correctly) saw as un-Islamic and indeed, in several respects, anti-Islamic. As for Bashar Assad, his Alawite sect is regarded with the same reserve as the Ahmadiyyas are in Pakistan. They are regarded by Wahhabis as apostates needing to be either converted to the "true" faith or eliminated. By hitching themselves to the Turkey-Qatar-Saudi Arabia bandwagon and assisting these states to fund and equip Wahhabi fighters, the West in effect joined in their crusade against anti-Wahhabis (in the case of Gaddafi) and the Shia (in the case of Bashar Assad).

Ever since the 1980 occupation of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by students swearing fealty to Ayatollah Khomeini, the U.S. and several of its allies have conflated the mullahcracy in Iran to cover an entire country (Iran). Over time, this has drawn in governments in states such as Syria and Iraq that have been seen as "over friendly" to Tehran.

Check the weapons used by ISIS in its drive on Baghdad. They are almost entirely from the stocks supplied to the "moderate" opposition to battle first Gaddafi and later Assad. This concept of a "moderate opposition" in battlefield terms is laughable. The fact is that extremists join the so-called "moderate" groups, collect cash, training and weapons from them and subsequently migrate to those frankly extremist groups, such as ISIS or Al Nusra.

The assumption made by policymakers in the U.S. and in the EU is that the divide between those in the "moderate" and the "extremist" camps is watertight enough to ensure that the flow of cash and weaponry from the first to the second is minuscule. The fact is that this division is illusory. There is perfect mobility between the two supposedly irreconcilable groups. In fact, almost all the actual fighting is carried out by the "extremist" groups, while the fundraising and collection of weapons is done by the "moderates". What has landed in Iraq are the weapons, cash and training given by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states with leaderships eager to ensure a reserved seat in paradise by facilitating the defeat of presumed infidels.

What is the situation on the ground?

Still very susceptible to improvement, provided both state as well as public donors in the GCC abandon their policy of training, funding and arming groups to do battle against established regimes in the region.
The fact is that the extremist groups have very little support within local populations. What is unfortunate is that television channels such as CNN and BBC are constantly talking of a "Sunni" rebellion against Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq, a Shia.

The fact is that this is a Wahhabi war against a Shia leader, one in which the majority of those classified as Sunni are standing aside, just as they did in Syria. While al-Maliki has drawn much flak from NATO member-states for his alleged "neglect of the Sunnis," the fact is that in his government, just as in that headed by Bashar Assad in Damascus, there is ample representation of Sunni elements.

What the Qatar and Saudi regimes seek is to give primacy to Wahhabi elements within the Sunni population, and to give this tiny minority (among the Sunni, itself a minority in Iraq) the same importance as the (majority) Shia population. Should Nouri al-Maliki agree to this, it would lead to both his exit as well as to a distortion of democracy in Iraq. Indeed, by holding back on launching air strikes against ISIS until al-Maliki fulfils the Qatari-Saudi agenda, the U.S. is creating a situation where the Prime Minister of Iraq will be forced to turn to Moscow and Tehran for military support.

Wahhabi extremists are a danger to the entire community of nations, and hence what is needed is to do battle with them in every theatre where they are seeking to change ground realities by force. This is still very possible. If the opportunity is missed, and safe havens for Wahhabi extremists become semi-permanent, this would pose a significant threat to Europe within the next two years.

How does this relate to Syria and/or other neighbors?

The Assad regime is proving quite successful in battling the Wahhabi extremists seeking its overthrow but, even now, assistance from Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and other states is pouring into Syria, including assistance by France and other Western countries. This has to be stopped immediately, as arms given in one theatre flow to others, the way it happened between Libya and Mali. Should the fighting in Iraq develop into the bloody stalemate that the war in Syria is in danger of becoming because of assistance funneled into the Wahhabi groups, there is likely to be clashes between Shia and Wahhabi across the region, with the moderate majority among Sunnis caught in the crossfire. Fire spreads quickly, and sectarianism is a fire.

Who is backing ISIS?

Al Qaeda. The so-called disavowal of the group by Ayman al-Zawahiri was in my view a ruse to ensure that ISIS continued to get assistance from those capitals seeking the end of the Assad regime, and in ensuring Wahhabi supremacy in the governing structure of Iraq. It is surprising how quickly Al Qaeda's protestations of daylight between itself and ISIS have been believed. In this context, the Obama administration is doing a disservice to the entire world by keeping secret the cache of information seized from the Abbottabad house of Osama bin Laden. The war on terror is global, and information of the kind retrieved from bin Laden ought to be more widely shared rather than hoarded.

Who is bribing whom, and what is the outcome?

ISIS has been bribing commanders in the Iraqi army so that they ensure near-zero resistance to their takeover of population centers. This was the same tactic carried out by the Taliban in Afghanistan during 1994-96. Those Iraqi commanders shown to have been bribed should be identified and executed, so as to prevent others from going the same way. At present, several are either in GCC watering holes such as Dubai or are in London and other such locations, working on spending the money they have made through betraying their country and in the process, endangering several countries in Europe.

What are the options for the U.S.?

To help the Iraqi military to finish off the ISIS battalions while this is still possible. Once they disperse among the population at large, it will be too late. They need to be attacked while they are still on the march. And to stop pursuing a Wahhabi agenda in the Middle East. That would be the same mistake as Israel made in Lebanon in the 1980s -- backing the Maronite Christians against the Shia in Lebanon, making Israel the only country in the world to have to endure Shia terror. Should the U.S. and its allies continue with its post-2011 policy of assisting Wahhabis against Shia, the whole of Europe as well as the U.S. will become the target of Shia terror groups formed in the crucible of the present sectarian combat in the region.

What does this mean for India?

Terror in India was Subcontinental, now it is continental and covers the whole of Asia. In my view, India should assist Baghdad in battling the extremists, ideally together with the U.S. and other powers, including Iran.

It is time for a Grand Alliance against Wahhabi terror, and what this means is that the Wahhabi International has to be confronted in every theatre, confronted and eliminated, so that the great religion of Islam can get freed of its distorting influence and once again shine as a moderate force for good in the world.

Should the U.S. or India hesitate in helping Iraq to eliminate the extremists who are so close to the gates of Baghdad, we may see the start of sectarian war across the region, with incalculable consequences to both the international economy as well as security.

Sunday 22 June 2014

Mr Prime Minister, give Indians dual nationality (Sunday Guardian)

M.D Nalapat is the Editorial Director of The Sunday Guardian.

s in other branches of government service, such as in the IAS or the IPS, the majority of those toiling within the Indian Revenue Service are conscientious officers, doing a fine job for their country within the limitations imposed by often defective policies. However, about 30% of IRS officers give a bad name to the rest, by seeking to enrich themselves and their friends and relatives almost as soon as they get their first posting. According to those in the service, there are officers posted in metropolitan centres who have amassed more than Rs 400 crore of assets within six to seven years of joining the service. Such officers got an assist through the elegant personage of Palaniappan Chidambaram. As did others such as Kapil Sibal, the Law Minister during UPA I and UPA II changed law after law, procedure after procedure, all this without any audible peep of protest from the BJP in either the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. Now that the damage done to civil society and to ethics in governance by such harsh laws and procedures is getting more visible, distinguished commentators who were in the UPA period silent about them are now vocal in demanding that they be rolled back. Not surprisingly, they have been joined by the Congress party in such a call, now that it is Narendra Modi and not Manmohan Singh who is in charge of the government.
Whereas during the Atal Behari Vajpayee period, income-tax officers were enjoined to behave in a civilised fashion even during raids, during the UPA period they were let loose in the manner of ravenous hounds. Raids would begin early in the morning and go on for days. During all this while, both mobile phones as well as landlines of the target individuals would be rendered dysfunctional, while they themselves or in many cases their families as well would not be permitted to leave the premises. In a world where decisions need to get taken on an instant basis to compete in the global marketplace, the best way of hobbling a business rival is to incentivise a senior officer into ordering a tax raid on that unfortunate. In several cases, valuables such as jewellery get taken away, need to be recorded or returned, while demands for bribes are openly made, with the officers aware that no mobile phone or camera capable of recording their cupidity is anywhere in the vicinity. There are bureaucrats in Delhi who have amassed hundreds of crores of rupees in cash and assets by ordering raids and then collecting protection money in the manner of underworld dons.
Time has come for India to give NRIs the option of dual passports. Such a facility has been enabled in all major economies.
All this has been made possible because the UPA ensured that the citizen has almost no legal recourse against the demands made by the tax authorities, who are empowered to claim up to ten times the tax to be paid as penalty, thereby ruining an individual financially unless he or she pays up a hefty bribe.
The nightmarish way in which the Income-Tax Department functions in India is the primary reason why there has been such a flight of capital, legal and otherwise, from the country during the UPA years. Investing in India has become a risky enterprise, not because of business reasons, but for the reason that some officer or the other eager to get his first Rs 100 crore begins to harass the taxpayer. Manmohan Singh has been distinguished from the 1992-96 period in being harsh on Indians but gentle on foreign nationals, and he has presided over a system whereby a citizen of India has become a lucrative and lawful (if such a word can be applied in such a context) target for authorities across the board.
Countries run by honest policymakers (rather than by those eager only to ensure that rules get framed as would generate copious bribes) such as the UK or Singapore have made their tax regimes friendly, so that High Net Worth people are encouraged to settle there, but in India, such people are subject to such tension that many flee. The only way to ensure that they remain, and that the millions of NRIs abroad who have vast resources of cash invest in the country of their parentage, is to ensure a friendly tax regime with low rates and civilised methods of computation and compliance, and without demanding that global income — rather than just income earned within the country — get declared.
Indeed, the time has come for India to give NRIs the option of dual passports. Such a facility has been enabled in all major economies except India. Prime Minister Modi needs to ensure that dual nationality be made an option for NRIs, and to ensure that conditions get created whereby not simply money in banks but bridges, roads and factories will get built in India from money now kept abroad. Should he do so, a double digit rate of growth will become a reality.
Ensure a friendly tax regime with low rates and civilised methods of computation for NRIs to settle and invest in India.