Anti-thetical and detrimental toIndia ’s democratic functioning

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Anti-thetical and detrimental toIndia ’s democratic functioning

Spokesperson: Prof. Rajeev Gowda, MP: He said that the RajyaSabha considered the Finance Bill and variety of amendments weremoved by various Members from different Opposition Parties.The Central thrust of these amendments were that the FinanceBill has been used as a vehicle to bring in variety of measures thatshould not have been in the Finance Bill in the first place and themeasures which are actually very anti-thetical and detrimental toIndia’s democratic functioning.

The first set of amendments by Shri Digvijai Singh of the CongressParty focused on the enormous powers that have been granted toIncome Tax Officers to essentially go ahead, raid and seize to dowhatever they want with anyone, any tax payer, and any businesswithout having to provide a rationale to various authorities. AndMr. Jaitley also clarified that only in a High Court will that rationalebe possibly admissible, to which Mr. Sibal countered that in theHigh Court they will not discuss facts, they will discuss only theLaw. Essentially that set of amendments focused on the powersthat the Government has granted to itself through the FinanceBill to be able to use the Tax authorities to arm twist, to threaten,to extort, whatever the Government wants to do in terms ofindividual tax-payers, political opponents, businesses, industries.The Government now has the capacity to go ahead without havingto provide a justification, to unleash tax terrorism on the peopleof India. And how did they do this not by amending the incomeTax Act after a discussion but by putting in clauses in the FinanceBill which allowed it to essentially go through without actuallyamending those Acts.

So paying attention to the first feature the Government has nowarmed itself with the capacity to arm twist, extort, use end misusethe tax system, the tax authorities against anyone it chooses totarget.

Now, with the amendment, Mr. Jaitley has brought in, thelimits on corporate funding, on corporate donations, have beenremoved. Now with the new introduction of the electoral bondswhere donations can be made through cheques, corporate canalso buy these electoral bonds in designated Bank and give thosebonds anonymously to political parties. You have now created asituation where you open the flood gates for corporate donationsand corporate take-overs of political parties. You have gotten ridof that disclosure that until now allowed the people of India and anyone else concerned about public policy to see which partyreceived money from which Corporate from which individual andto therefore, infer what policy outcome was influenced by whichlobby. Today, that transparency is gone and Mr. Jatiley makes a lotof noise about the virtues of anonymity.

The Rajya Sabha has already conducted a very detailed discussionon electoral reforms when numerous other measures were brought.The measures were regarding partial proportionate representationas part of the Budget speech, I gave concrete proposal on publicor State funding of election. Numerous such proposals need to beexamined. The time has come for cleaner and transparent politicalfunding and for all these measures to be discussed, debated,analyzed and then crystallized in the form of transparent PoliticalFunding Bill that is brought in, debated and voted on in both Housesof Parliament, subject to scrutiny by the appropriate StandingCommittee. Using the Finance Bill to subterfuge to try and pushthrough these kinds of very important and far reaching impactfulchanges on electoral financing and the possibilities of active politicalcompetition. If only one side is going to be favoured with money,where everyone else is going to sit and watch, you are going to seean unlevel playing field. That is not what competitive elections areall about. That is not what a healthy democracy requires.

So, we urge the Finance Minister and the Government to puttogether all party consultation and let us move this process furtherin the manner which has been enshrined in the Constitutionbringing both Houses to bear on the debate. That is the first issuethat I wanted to place before you.

This is something that the House and the Government must bringto the fore and make a central issue so that we take care of thepeople the ’annadatas’ who provide us the food that is so essentialto keep our people in good nutrition. We need to take care, we needto reach out and we need to ensure that their distress is alleviatedand that we put in place the measures to ensure that agriculturebecomes profitable and sustainable occupation and that farmerswill get adequate returns that we as a country owe them. Thursday,30th March, 2017