Demonetisation—Dr EAS Sarma’s poser to Prime Minister Modi

Retired IAS officer Dr EAS Sarma, known for his campaigns for probity in public life, asks some tough questions to the PM and FM on ostentatious marriages of BJP leaders’ children post-demonetisation

NH National Bureau

[Dr EAS Sarma, retired IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre and former Secretary in the ministries of power and finance, Government of India, is known for his campaigns for probity in public life. In his earlier letters to the Prime Minister, he laments that his letters to the Finance Minister, Enforcement Directorate and to the Prime Minister himself on aspects related to demonetisation went unanswered, adding that he is left with no recourse but to seek legal redressal. Here follow his letters to the Prime Minister on December 4, and to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on December 1.]

EAS SARMA’S LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER ON DECEMBER 4, 2016

Dear Shri Narendra Modiji,

I enclose two news reports, one that appeared today in Hindustan Times on “50 chartered planes to ferry VVIPs to Nagpur for Gadkari’s daughter’s wedding”, and the second in today's Times of India, “Weddings put off as families struggle to tide over crash crunch”.

Apparently, there is one set of rules and standards for NDA Ministers (please see my letter addressed to the Enforcement Directorate, forwarded here on a similar wedding equally lavishly celebrated last week by your Minister Mahesh Sharma) and another set of rules and standards for the common man on the street.

As a result of the prevailing cash crisis, many families have put off their scheduled weddings. Many other weddings have broken down. But, Gali Janardhana Reddy, Mahesh Sharma and Gadkari feel no crisis whatsoever, as they seem to have the blessings of bigwigs from both BJP and the NDA. While your Ministers are indulging in such unhealthy extravagance, is it not ironic that you yourself should exhort the common man to stand in queues to uphold your grandiose mission to fight against black money?

Those that stand in the queues like myself feel that your intentions are great and temporary inconveniences should be ignored. At the same time, we feel perplexed to find no Janardhana Reddy’s, Mahesh Sharma’s and Gadkari’s in the queues. Adding insult to injury, they flaunt their wealth and mock at the public at large. Are we living in a civilised society, Mr Modi?
EAS Sarma

Those that stand in the queues like myself feel that your intentions are great and temporary inconveniences should be ignored. At the same time, we feel perplexed to find no Janardhana Reddy's, Mahesh Sharma's and Gadkari's in the queues. Adding insult to injury, they flaunt their wealth and mock at the public at large. Are we living in a civilised society, Mr Modi?

I am asking the Enforcement Directorate to investigate the source of every rupee that these Super-Citizens have spent and the cash component of every expense they have incurred. I am not sure whether the Enforcement Director has the authority or an inclination to carry out an impartial investigation, as the numerous cases of overseas accounts standing in the names of some of your Chief Ministers brought to their notice by me, are yet to be investigated by the Central investigation agencies till now.

I do not think that any marriage in the West can boast of 50 chartered flights being arranged as it seems to be the case with Gadkari.

Are these chartered flights paid for by the corporate houses? Who are those corporate houses? Are there quid pro quos involved? How many Five-Star rooms have been booked on behalf of Gadkari at Nagpur? How many air-conditioned cars are deployed to ferry the VIPS to and fro? Who has paid for the same? What was the expenditure incurred on the wedding celebrations?

Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Photo by Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
EAS Sarma “We feel perplexed to find no Janardhana Reddy’s, Mahesh Sharma’s and Gadkari’s in the queues. Adding insult to injury, they flaunt their wealth and mock at the public at large.”

Have Gadkari and his associates withdrawn cash from banks at the expense of all those languishing for days in long serpentine queues in front of banks and ATMs?

Are the local senior Income Tax officials have already compromised their position by attending the wedding reception as honoured guests?

Who are the NDA, RSS and BJP bigwigs who attended the wedding and endorsed the extravagance?

This calls for a full-fledged investigation, Mr. Modi.

I am marking a copy of this letter to Hasmukh Adhia, the Union Revenue Secretary so that he may feel that he too has the obligation to order an investigation into this conspicuously celebrated Gadakari [sic] wedding, especially at a time when his Department is harassing small jewellers and petty contractors in the name of "tightening" the noose around the necks of "black marketeers".

I believe that in a democracy like ours, we need an explanation on this questionable wedding from the highest level in your government. I believe that the CBDT and the Enforcement Directorate should investigate and report on this. The public at large have not yet fully digested the initial "clean" certificate provided by the Income Tax Department on the details of Gali Janaradhana Reddy's spending on his daughter's wedding. This has certainly eroded the credibility of your government in regard to the demonetisation measures.

If you do not act quickly and firmly on these letters of mine, I will be constrained to seek judicial intervention, as every citizen in this country has the right to question the basics of governance.

I am circulating this letter widely to generate a public discussion and a debate on NDA's true stance on profligacy and conspicuous expenditure in the context of demonetisation.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to Government of India

Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times
Photo by Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times
EAS Sarma: “The public at large have not yet fully digested the initial “clean” certificate provided by the Income Tax Department on the details of Gali Janaradhana Reddy’s spending on his daughter’s wedding.”

EAS SARMA’S LETTER TO UNION FINANCE MINISTER ARUN JAITLEY ON DECEMBER 1, 2016

Dear Shri Jaitley,

While I welcome Shri Modi's demonetisation effort to flush out black money, repeated announcements made by your government, exhorting people to shift to the “cashless” system, raises serious concerns in view of the inherent risks that are involved. I refer to the risks below.

● I enclose an Economic Times report dated 20-10-2016 (“3.2 million debit cards compromised; SBI, HDFC Bank, ICICI, YES Bank and Axis worst hit”) that revealed widespread hacking of the Debit Card accounts of people. I understand that the government has ordered a forensic audit but the findings from it are not known to the public. What is the stage of the audit?

● I further enclose a distressing report that appeared today in Business Standard (“Phishing websites stealing information from ICICI, SBI 24 other banks: US Report”) which reveals the personal data of those who transact through banks being surreptitiously stolen by overseas agencies! As one cyber expert has put it, "Criminals follow the money and as more Indians embrace online banking, criminals followed them online. As the digital economy grows, consumers should be aware of the risks that accompany the convenience".

I feel that the government should feel fully responsible for the statements they are making on the virtues of a cashless system, not being aware of the risks inherent in a cyber world. These cyber criminals are more likely to exploit those who are not fully familiar with the vulnerabilities of online transactions, more so using mobile communication systems, without suspecting how fragile they are.

May I request you to first publish the findings of the forensic audit on Debit Card hacking and the steps taken to plug the loopholes? The government should also take the public into confidence on the stealing of personal data by overseas phishing agencies and the steps taken to neutralise them.

I have written to you umpteen times about the personal data of the people getting into the hands of private agencies through the Aadhar route. The government have not bothered to respond to my letters.

I expect prompt action on my concerns which touch every Indian seeking to move into a cashless system.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

E A S Sarma

Former Secretary to GOI Visakhapatnam 1-12-2016

[Mr Sarma also wrote to Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, asking whether the party would act against a prominent Karnataka Congress leader for attending the wedding of Gali Janardhana Reddy’s daughter. "Would Congress acquiesce in one of its own local leaders marking his presence at such a highly objectionable display of conspicuous consumption at a time when millions of ordinary Indians are struggling to draw meagre cash from their own legitimate accounts in the face of demonetisation?” asked Mr Sarma. While politicians from several parties attended the weddings and receptions in Delhi, several including Siddaramaiah and Mamata Banerjee, chief ministers of Karnataka and West Bengal respectively, chose to stay away.]

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Published: 11 Dec 2016, 5:12 AM