Monday, April 06, 2009

My vote is for sale - Part 2

It was quite a coincidence that i wrote a blog & the BJP manifesto (asking for "Swiss black money" to be returned) was released. Let's see if there is any other political party that answers the questions in this blog.

Issue #2: My vote is for the party that will flight "shadow black money system". 

Chidambaram came up with a fantastic idea in 1997 - VDIS'97 - Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme where unaccounted income could be disclosed & with tax paid on the same, the money would be regularized. If my memory doesn't fail - there was huge publicity and the ads were displayed on TV during Sharjah series cricket matches as well. The end result - the government netted Rs. 10,000 crores on "black assets" of 33,000 crores. The highest  payment came from Andhra Pradesh when a gentleman declared black assets of 500+ crores and paid 170 crores. Phew!

I think the time for VDIS II has come. With the real estate boom & the criminalization of politics, it is time for the government to remove black money from the system - estimated at 18 to 20% of GDP ($210 to 234 billion). Thus, putting together the offshore loot & local black money - it's an astounding $1.5 trillion! And to see no politican speak of it ...

.. isn't a surprise. Most politicans are the beneficieries of this ill-gotten wealth. Let me take one example of a recent addition to the political environment. Actor Chiranjeevi -my favorite Telugu actor & the star of Andhra Pradesh. 

Chiranjeevi filed his nomination papers for Tirupati MLA seat on 4th April 2009. As part of his papers, he declared assets worth Rs. 88 crores in the name of his wife & himself. No information on assets belonging to his children were released. That seems normal for a film icon whose 30 years in film world has produced more hits than one can count. However, one particular detail caught my attention. Chiranjeevi declared owning a site in Mount Road, Chennai  measuring 4,092 sq. yards (36,828 sq feet or 15.345 "grounds" @ ground = 2400 sq ft) worth Rs. 2.046 crores.

The calculation works to Rs 13.33 lakhs per ground for the property! That's a joke. We don't get property for Rs. 13 lakhs, 50 kms outside Chennai forget at the heart of the city. The actual value of the site is worth at least 25 to 50 times the declared rate at the least (Rs. 50 to 75 crores). Assuming the same kind of under-declaration, Chiranjeevi & his wife would be worth at least 300 to 400 crores if not more. And Chiranjeevi is contesting as a champion of middle-class! What travesty!

I am not singling out my movie-idol Chiranjeevi, but this is the trend amongst all politicians in India. 

The single largest source of black money in India is in these land-holdings. Let me explain how black money is created & funded. Assume Chiranjeevi wants to sell the land. The government guideline value might be Rs. 4 crores for the 4092 sq. yd land (i have no info on the guideline value in Mount Road). The seller buys stamp paper (11% of sale value - Rs. 44 lakhs) for Rs. 4 crores but the actual sale price might be Rs. 40 crores (assumption). In this case, Rs. 36 crores of black money is either created or routed. The government is also a loser - instead of receiving Rs. 4.4 crores as stamp duty, it receives Rs. 40 lakhs. The modus operandi of Indian politician at it's shameful worst!

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