India Against Corruption to hold public meetings on Sunday, to mobilise for countrywide fast from 5th April
With the ruckus over Hasan Ali Khan's Swiss bank accounts and the Supreme Court quashing the appointment of PJ Thomas as Central Vigilance Commissioner, one would have expected the government to implement some strict measures to root out corruption. But it seems that prime minister Manmohan Singh has refused to initiate any changes till the state assembly polls, scheduled next month, are over. Now, activists, seeking immediate action on this festering issue, are planning to go on a fast next month.
Members of India Against Corruption (IAC), among them Dr Kiran Bedi, Arvind Kejriwal and Swami Agnivesh, met the prime minister and Union law minister Veerappa Moily on Monday, urging the government to undertake some anti-corruption measures immediately. However, the prime minister expressed his inability to take any specific measures before the completion of the state polls. Dr Singh also refused to include activists in the committee to draft the Lokpal Bill, which is expected to create an independent vigilance authority at the centre. Mayank Gandhi, spokesperson of IAC, said the movement would be intensified with activists scheduled to go on a fast from 5th April.
"The prime minister said the government has no time to consider the issue of corruption till the 13th May due to the ongoing Parliament session and the impending elections in five states," Mr Gandhi said. In view of the government's attitude, Anna Hazare, an activist of IAC, will launch the indefinite fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.
The forum has planned public meetings nationwide on Sunday to raise awareness on the issue and mobilise support for the hunger protest. "Some 20,000 people will participate, distribute pamphlets in the meetings," Mr Gandhi said. "On 5th April, more than 100,000 people across the country will go on a fast in solidarity that will be led by Annaji in New Delhi."
Last week, Mr Hazare had warned that he would go on a fast if the meeting with the government turned out to be fruitless, and if the government did not agree to enact a strong anti-corruption law along the lines of the Jan Lokpal Bill, which has been drafted by IAC.
"After much persuasion, he (the prime minister) agreed to bring a Lokpal Bill in the monsoon session of Parliament," Mr Gandhi said. "He was informed that the government Bill was poorly drafted. The prime minister suggested that a sub-committee of the group of ministers (GoM) would be constituted and it would have two meetings with representatives of IAC after 13th May. The GoM will draft the bill accordingly after the interaction."
But the IAC had decided not to wait that long, and it has demanded that instead of a GoM, a joint committee be set up which will have equal representation from the government and activists. But the government has rejected the proposal. Mr Gandhi said, "In effect, we stand where we were before the meeting. The meeting served no purpose except that it made the intention of the government clear."
The poorly drafted Lokpal Bill, which the government plans to introduce in Parliament, places several restraints on the Lokpal and hinders its independent functioning. Hence, the Jan Lokpal Bill which has been drafted by the activists that gives more power for effective vigilance.
(To read the draft of the Jan Lokpal Bill log on to http://www.indiaagainstcorruption.org/.)
"The amended DTAA with Switzerland will enable India to get banking information in specific cases for a period beginning 1 April 2011 and thereafter," minister of state for finance SS Palanimanickam said
New Delhi: India will be able to access banking information from Switzerland in specific cases beginning 1 April 2011, reports PTI.
The two countries had signed an agreement on 30 August 2010 to amend the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) to facilitate exchange of information between the two countries.
"The amended DTAA (with Switzerland) will enable India to get banking information in specific cases for a period beginning 1 April 2011 and thereafter," minister of state for finance SS Palanimanickam told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.
The revised DTAA with Switzerland was signed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and Micheline Calmy-Rey, head of Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.
While the India has completed the formalities for implementation of the revised DTAA, Switzerland has yet to ratify the agreement, Mr Mukherjee said in reply to another query.
"The amending protocol will come into force on completion of the internal process by Switzerland. Switzerland has informed that they have still not completed their internal process as the Amending Protocol has yet not been ratified by their Parliament," Mr Mukherjee said.
The revised DTAA, according to Mr Palanimanickam, will, "specifically provide for exchange of banking information as well as information without domestic interest".
The Amending Protocol, he added, "contains a provision wherein the requesting state has to provide the name of the person under examination or investigation and, if available, other particulars facilitating that person's identification such as address, date of birth, marital status and tax identification number."
The revised agreement with Switzerland, however, will not allow "fishing expeditions", a term used for seeking general information.
"The Amending Protocol also provides that these clauses contain important procedural requirements that are intended to ensure that fishing expeditions do not occur. Nevertheless they need to be interpreted in order not to frustrate effective exchange of information," the minister added.
Pointing out that the government does not have any verifiable information on the total amount of money deposited in Swiss banks by Indian nationals, Mr Palanimanickam said the finance ministry was getting a fresh study done on unaccounted income and wealth within and outside the country.
"The proposal (of study) was approved by the government in January 2011. The study is likely to be completed within a timeframe of 18 months," he added.
The government is committed to tax undisclosed income of Indian residents within and outside the country, the minister said, adding "this also includes undisclosed deposits in other countries including Switzerland. Since this in an on-going process, no time frame can be fixed for the same."
Through its office in the Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Reliance Capital wants to expand its business in the region up to $1 billion in the next three years
Dubai Reliance Capital, the financial services arm of Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, plans to expand its operations in the Middle East, chief executive Sam Ghosh said.
Through its office in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), the company wants to expand its business in the region up to $1 billion (3.67 billion dirhams) in the next three years and up to $2 billion in the next five years, with a special focus on wealth management and sharia-compliant businesses, Ghosh added.
The company said its sharia business in Dubai is growing several-fold and it expects to see significant growth in its asset management business based out of Dubai in the next few years.
"We see Dubai play an important role in our international growth strategy. Dubai's geographical location and its highly dynamic business environment are ideal for our international presence. Our decision to open office in DIFC is helping us accelerate and tap the vast business potential present in the region," Mr Ghosh told Gulf News.
As part of its expansion, the company will increase its headcount considerably in the next couple of years. "The India story is well known to Indians living in the UAE and the region. Through our Dubai office, we want to reach out to more nationalities keen to participate in the India growth story," Reliance Capital Asset Management's business head for Europe, Middle East and Africa, RM Sriram, told the newspaper.
Reliance Capital has interests in asset management and mutual funds, life and general insurance, private equity and proprietary investments, stock broking, depository services, distribution of financial products, investment banking, wealth management services, commercial finance, exchanges and other activities in financial services.
In Dubai and the Gulf region, Reliance Capital will primarily emphasise India-focused asset management business.
Reliance Asset Management (UK) Plc's Dubai branch began advisory operations from DIFC last year after receiving a licence from the Dubai Financial Services Authority. The Dubai branch provides full range of wealth and investment advisory services to institutional clients and high net-worth individuals.
Ghosh said leading sovereign wealth funds from the region have investment exposure to India and the company expects growing interest from family offices and regional high net-worth clients going forward.
"Although international institutions offer exposure to India through offshore funds, everyone knows the fact that the local knowledge of the market is key asset in fund management business. This is what we want to leverage in the region," Mr Ghosh said.
On Tuesday, Reliance Capital ended 1.76% up at Rs484.90 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, while the benchmark Sensex gained 1.19% to 18,439.65.