Black money scheme not amnesty: Jaitley on ‘Fair and Lovely’ jibe

NEW DELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said the government’s scheme of a one-time compliance window for people with domestic black money to come clean was “not an amnesty scheme, it has a penalty”.

Under the four-month compliance window — announced by Jaitley during the Union Budget — people with domestic black money can come clean by paying 45% tax and penalty and get immunity from prosecution.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley attacked the Congress after its vice-president Rahul Gandhi recently accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Jaitley of going back on their election pledge and helping the rich convert their black money into white.
Read: From Fair and Lovely to RSS: How Rahul took on Modi govt in Parliament
“When you make comments on steps we are taking on black money, please honestly consider your track record,” Jaitley said, recalling an income disclosure scheme announced in 1997 by the then Congress government.
The government had raised Rs 10,000 crore through an amnesty scheme in 1997.
“Nobody who has black money will be jailed under Modi’s ‘Fair and Lovely’ scheme,” Gandhi recently said in Parliament. “All those who have black money can make it white under this scheme.”
Pointing out that Modi had in 2014 vowed to jail those with black money, he said Modi had also failed to bring back black money stashed abroad.
On Tuesday, Jaitley said: “An amnesty scheme in which people were asked to pay 30%. Pay at 1987 income rates. Most declarants were women and children. The immediate effect was there was no tax buoyancy next year.”
“We have told people if any part of your income has not been assessed, pay 30% tax on it and 50% penalty. It is not an amnesty scheme it has a penalty,” the minister said.
With key bills stuck in Parliament, Jaitley reached out to the Opposition asking them to shed “disruptive” politics and sought their cooperation while countering Gandhi’s attack over issues related to the JNU sedition row, economy and foreign policy.
Responding to the attack on the JNU row, he said the government has nothing against a “particular student”, an apparent reference to student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, but asserted that free speech cannot be allowed to be used to advocate break-up of the country.
“I expect mainstream political parties like Congress to be in the forefront of being against these people. Please don’t do anything that lends respectability to such people,” he said.
He also talked about the present NPA crisis in banks, saying it was “not a big crisis but certainly a challenge” and questioned why the previous government did not take steps to avert the situation.
Intervening in the debate on Motion of Thanks to President’s Address in Rajya Sabha, Jaitley rejected Gandhi’s charge that the government has “given away” the benefits of previous years on Pakistan, saying “We are compelling Pakistan for first time to own up that attack in India is taking place from their land.”
He attacked the previous UPA government by raking up the ‘Sharm el-Sheikh’ episode, saying “you agreed to hold talks with Pakistan irrespective of whether terrorism stops or not.”
In his 45-minute speech, Jaitley said: “This is the time when we don’t need obstructive democracy. Our approach will have to be to work together. This is the spirit with which this government needs to function.”
Reacting to charges made by Gandhi on various issues, including the government not passing the benefit of reduction in crude oil prices to consumers, Jaitley took a dig at the Congress Vice President, saying the “most dangerous calculation is the one done at the back of an envelope”.
He told the Congress benches in the Upper House, of which Rahul is not a member, that “somebody has convinced your leader (Rahul) to do all accounting on the back of an envelope”. Gandhi is a member of Lok Sabha.
Defending the decision of not passing the entire benefit of reducing oil prices to consumers, the finance minister said while a major part has been passed on to consumers, some has been given to loss-making oil companies and part invested in infrastructure-creation especially in rural areas.
With PTI inputs