Why CVC's move to track corrupt bureaucrats through Aadhaar will not work
All bank deposits above Rs 50,000 have since long required PAN card details, and even then failed to control the growth of black money.
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The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has recently indicated that as Aadhaar was being made mandatory for numerous financial transactions and property deals, it could be used effectively in tracking the ill-gotten wealth of corrupt bureaucrats. The anti-corruption watchdog is optimistic that information made available through a person's Permanent Account Number (PAN) and Aadhaar cards could help it to check if financial deals carried out by the cardholder were within his or her means.
Central vigilance commissioner KV Chowdary told PTI in an interview, "We have prepared a concept paper. The idea is to prepare some kind of an operational procedure and if possible some kind of software so that once it is decided to investigate X, Y or Z, we can connect in a seamless manner with other departments to get the necessary details (regarding the person) using Aadhaar."
The CVC chief is reported to have said that data about financial transactions including those related to immovable properties and shares were available in various domain areas of Income Tax authorities, registration departments or Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and other government agencies. With Aadhaar being made mandatory for some financial transactions, CVC expects to get the same from a few centralised agencies and use the details for the purposes of ascertaining a transaction made by an individual and probe disproportionate assets cases.
According to the CVC, CBI and other investigating agencies earlier did not have easy access to such data. "Now that the data is available and it is very valuable, it needs to be leveraged. This data will give a much better picture of the receipt, expenditure, and investments of an officer," said Chowdary.
Expressing the resolve to take every possible step and route to weed out corruption, he has said that the human aspect, such as role of individuals and auditors in the Punjab National Bank (PNB) loan scam had shown investigations need to look at the use of technology for misdeeds and for covering them up. The CVC chief has said required some software preparation, standard operating procedures and perhaps some approvals, which are under preparation.
Since about 99 per cent bank dealings and transactions using Aadhaar (linked with PAN card) are legal and happen in white money, the CVC's move is not likely to achieve much.
The vigil may only trouble those babus who buy lavish residential and commercial properties and farmhouses. But lies in their lockers or safe vaults kept out of banks might still remain out of reach of such systems. They can safely be parked in safe havens on the slightest whiff of a scrutiny.
Cash dealings continue to be used for sale and purchase of benami properties, jewellery and form a huge component of the unaccounted wealth. The corrupt may continue to go on foreign vacations, enjoy five-star luxuries, send their children to schools and colleges that are out of the reach of people who earn as much as them because the system won't be able to nab them.
For any deposit exceeding Rs 50,000 depositors have always been asked to share their PAN cards and yet the black market economy in the country has continued to grow. The money the corrupt officials have accumulated over the years and subsequently converted in fixed deposits, mutual funds, shares etc - either in their names or in the names of their kin - can thus be tracked using the PAN card details. Therefore, it should not be difficult for the authorities to detect instances of black money being converted into white.
The problem is that there is always a babu overlooking the investigation into the financial credentials of another babu and this precisely stops things from changing on the ground.
This perhaps means that the country needs a completely independent and autonomous anti-corruption body with sufficient powers that is answerable only to the prime minister and the vice-president of India. The vetoing authority over such a body should be only with the President of India and no one else.