The government under the prime ministership of Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016, had announced that the largest denomination of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 were demonetised with immediate effect ceasing to be a legal tender. This move led to widespread impacts across all the sectors of the economy. In a recent report by Azim Premji University, around 50 lakh people lost their jobs since demonetization was launched in November 2016. This report on jobs has come at a time when employment is one of the biggest issues in the Lok Sabha elections.
Indian elections cost huge sums of money. This money hardly comes from contributions by sympathizers of the political party but from big corporate houses. Such contributions have largely come from undeclared income/black money and this increases corruption in the electoral process. It highlights the need for implementing effective reforms in electoral finance.In the previous article, we have discussed the Electoral Bonds Scheme for bringing transparency in electoral finance. In this article, we are going to discuss another such reform called State funding of elections as a measure to bring transparency and eliminate corruption in the electoral process.
The State Bank of India (SBI) has opened a 20-day window from where an individual, acting singly or in concert with others, can buy electoral bonds and donate money to political parties. Purchasers of these bonds have been granted anonymity, thereby creating opacity in what should have been a transparent process. Data gathered in response to an RTI query revealed that there has been a 62% jump in donations collected through electoral bonds this year (2019).
Notably, Election Commission of India (ECI) has told the Supreme Court that the electoral bonds, wreck transparency in political funding. In its affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, the EC pointed to the amendments made to key laws, with dangerous consequences.
According to the Asia-Pacific wealth report, Japan’s richest persons have the largest wealth accumulation in the Asia-Pacific region, however, Chinese millionaires are also catching up to them. Meanwhile, Indian millionaires are adding wealth at the fastest in the region, which India can take pride in it. But the reality is that the bottom 60%, the majority of the population, owns less than 5% of the country’s wealth. This growing inequality threatens to destroy the fabric of Indian democracy.
Recently the ruling party has launched a series of awareness campaigns to develop a consensus on the issue of holding simultaneous elections in the country. Moreover, organizing simultaneous elections for Lok Sabha and state assemblies is an ambitious task envisioned by the Election Commission. But the Chief Election Commissioner opined that it cannot be implemented anytime soon.
In November 2017, the central government had formed a task force to create a new Direct Tax law which seeks to replace the present Income Tax Act, 1961. The Task Force will submit its report to the government on how to fix the more-than-50-year-old Income Tax Act, 1961.