It is a welcome development that the finance ministry has ordered a probe into the Indian connections to the global tax evasion racket, brought to light by the recent worldwide media expose. Details unearthed of individual and organisations from more than 170 countries, that set up companies in tax havens to avoid paying the rightful amount, have proffered names of quite a few Indian entities, including corporate giants such as the ‘king of good times’ Vijay Mallya and the Lok Sabha member Vivekananda Kadam. It is to the great credit of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and its affiliated media houses that this worldwide scam of tax evasion has come to public knowledge, and the Indian authorities must do their bit to bring the defaulters to justice. With names of about 612 Indians featuring on the list, the centre must pull up its socks and implement the probe thoroughly, digging into the cesspool of money laundering, particularly at a time when the government exchequer is faced with a massive revenue crunch. With prominent industrialists such as Ravikant Ruia, Teja Raju, Samir Modi, Chetan Burman, Abhey Kummar Oswal, Rahul Mammen Mappillai, Saurabh Mittal, Vinod Doshi among others figuring in the list, the malice has been proven to be all pervasive, rather than an individual indiscretion. It is symptomatic of an entire class of transnational corporate and business heads, who not just seek to maximise their profit margin and exploit the public for commercial interests, but also cheat the government by tampering with the balance sheet and paying grossly inadequate taxes.
The collusion of private banks in India with tax evading corporate bosses has also been hinted at by another sting operation undertaken by a local media group. This is not for the first time that the unholy nexus between private financial groups and the business classes that they fund has been pointed out. Violation of Income Tax Act is a breach of the growing public trust in the private sector, particularly when it has emerged as the engine of growth and driver of development. In the ICIJ expose, the featured Indians had opened accounts in the British Virgin Islands or other tax havens, thus trying to hoodwink the revenue department and income tax officials of how much money they had stashed in these innocuous looking foreign accounts. Secret and shady financial dealings of politicians, industrialists and even well-to-do professionals point towards a general culture of malice and moorings in unethical grounds corroding the very foundations of state-industry relations. With Reserve Bank of India also looking into the matter of the allegations against the private banks, the finance ministry must conduct the investigation in an unbiased and stern manner. Moreover, the international links of tax evasion must also be thoroughly probed, to plug the loopholes for the monies to disappear.