If Assam is a microcosm of what is happening across the country on the black money front, then it offers us serious food for thought about the Centre’s campaign to root out this mece. An official who served as additiol deputy commissioner in Jorhat district and presently posted at Golaghat, has been bbed by the police — after the Jorhat DC himself blew the whistle on detecting fraudulent withdrawal of government funds. It turns out that this official had made withdrawals amounting to several lakhs of rupees in the me of ‘Sadharan Jati Development Council’ whose chairman is absconding. Interestingly, he continued to withdraw money from the desigted bank account even after he was transferred from his Jorhat posting; he argues he was within his rights to do so, while in the same breath claiming to have been ‘misled’ in signing the cheques. In another incident, a junior assistant in the scam-ridden Social Welfare department was caught with Rs 5 lakh cash inside his car at a departmental office in Guwahati. Vigilance and anti-corruption sleuths are reportedly hot on the trails of several officials of this department, after it came under the Chief Minister’s scanner for mega scams including the one of feeding 9 lakh ‘ghost’ children for 15 years. These arrests are the latest in the Sarbanda Sonowal government’s continuing drive against corrupt officials. People have seen the kinds of money Excise officials have been caught with negotiating bar licenses, Forest officials extorting smugglers of animal products, and other officials while supposedly going about their duties. Some of the biggest disclosures are coming out from the constitutiol body recruiting officials to work for the Government of Assam. After the arrests of APSC chairman Rakesh Paul, member Samedur Rahman and two others, its deputy examition controller too has been bbed. The investigation is continuing and the evidence gathered against them will have to stand scrutiny in court. But some revelations are, prima facie, disturbing to the lay public. How come APSC evaluation sheets and answer scripts are turning up in apartments, when these should have been locked up inside strongrooms? Among successful candidates in various APSC selections, a sizeable number were the kith and kin of ministers, top bureaucrats, political leaders and influential people — and it transpires, from the extended family of the arrested examition controller himself. Merit seems to be gushing forth from this charmed circle!
Let us be clear that corruption in government offices is but one part of the black money cancer that has eaten into the vitals of this great tion. Its people are utterly fed up with this malaise, and have been rising in revolt off and on; the entire country saw the idealism of youths as they came out on the streets in 2001 during the India Against Corruption movement and later An Hazare’s fast. The black money issue figured prominently in the 2014 general elections, and the rendra Modi-led NDA used it as a potent weapon. PM Modi is now seeking to rekindle that mood, even as his opponents accuse him of using black money as a mere tool to set the political discourse. Talking tougher after his demonetization move, the Prime Minister on Sunday warned he has more ‘projects’ lined up to flush out black money. Bemi properties are next in his sights, with the law recently coming into force to fine and jail up to seven years those indulging in bemi transactions, and providing for confiscation of such properties. The move to suddenly put out of circulation high denomition notes was ostensibly to catch holders of black money uwares, though it is debatable how successful it really will be. But whether as political strategy or otherwise, it is absolutely right that corruption and black money should remain uppermost in the country’s agenda. The government must make an example of vel politicians and government officials who loot public funds and don’t work, leaving three-fourth of the people still hankering for two square meals a day and other basic needs. It must also me, shame and punish the businessmen who shamelessly default on gargantuan bank loans, leaving crores of small depositors in the lurch. And this war involves the common man, all of us, who must turn the searchlight as much inwards as outwards. Unless we stop evading taxes, we cannot have any moral authority to demand punishment for those who steal, game the system and stash our wealth abroad.