A senior member of the UPA dispensation, law minister Veerappa Moily, has demanded a white paper on black money, stoking the fire in the ongoing debate on the issue that has paralyzed the Congress-led government at the Centre for most of its second term in office.
In a letter to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, Moily has demanded “publication of a white paper on black money, or in the alternative appointing a commission headed by eminent personalities well-versed in banking and taxation matters.”
Moily’s letter to FM comes on the heels of Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh’s criticism of Mukherjee for handling the Baba Ramdev-led stir on bringing back black money. Singh had last week told a TV channel that “Pranab Mukherjee staked virtually his entire career going to airport (to talk to Baba Ramdev).”
However, taking a tough stand to silence all such criticism within the government, Mukherjee responded to Moily, “Following recommendations of the standing committee on finance, I have approved fresh study on unaccounted income both inside and outside the country bringing out the nature of activities engendering money laundering and its ramifications on national security by three national level institutes.”
Mukherjee said publishing the white paper can wait till September 2012 when the government will be ready with this study estimating unaccounted wealth laundered by Indians.
The FM further pointed out that his ministry has set up a panel to examine the existing legal and administrative framework to deal with the black money menace. “The committee which has representation from your ministry also is required to consult all stakeholders and submit its report within a period of six months,” he reminded the law minister.
Mukherjee also hinted at considering declaring wealth generated illegally as national asset if the committee recommended on similar lines. The terms of reference of the committee, the FM explained, included enacting or amending laws to confiscate and recover such assets, and providing for exemplary punishment against its perpetrators besides declaring illegal wealth as national asset.
These were almost the same issues raised by civil society activists. The FM has also been talking tough with the civil society advocates of the Lokpal bill.
On Sunday, Mukherjee questioned their authority on dictating terms to a democratically elected government. In response, the activists said their demand of bringing the prime minister under the Lokpal’s purview was something the government had itself endorsed in its draft bill.
“In January 2011, Veerappa Moily, law minister in the present government, suggested inclusion of prime minister in Lokpal’s purview in the draft law prepared by him. This draft law was sent to the home ministry under P Chidambaram, which also concurred with this view in its comments made in March 2011,” the activists had said in a letter addressed to the PM.