Did ministers queue up: RTI activist

An RTI activist today wanted to know when and where Union ministers had deposited the "cash in hand" they had declared at the start of this financial year, and whether they queued like most ordinary citizens or sent their peons to the bank.

By Anita Joshua
  • Published 1.12.16
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New Delhi, Nov. 30: An RTI activist today wanted to know when and where Union ministers had deposited the "cash in hand" they had declared at the start of this financial year, and whether they queued like most ordinary citizens or sent their peons to the bank.

In his email to the media and fellow activists, NGO official Venkatesh Nayak also asked whether the income-tax department would look at their deposits above Rs 2.5 lakh with the "same degree of suspicion" as at similar high-value deposits by ordinary citizens.

Nayak had clarified at the outset that since the ministers had declared the money and the figures were displayed on an official website, there was no reason to suspect any connection with "black money".

Also, as finance minister Arun Jaitley's staff pointed out to The Telegraph, there is time till December 30 to deposit old currency. Besides, the staff said, there is no rule insisting that people make the deposits personally.

"However, every citizen who has stood for hours before banks to either deposit the old currency notes or exchange them for the new ones has the right to know when and where the ministers deposit(ed) the small and large sums of cash they held in their bank accounts," Nayak, coordinator for the "access to information programme" at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, noted.

The ministers' declarations, made under Section 75A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, are available on the Prime Minister's official website in the section "assets and liabilities of the Union council of ministers (2015-2016)".

Jaitley had declared Rs 65.29 lakh as cash in hand on March 31, 2016. Junior power minister Piyush Goyal, who too has been in the forefront of the government's sabre-rattling on demonetisation, declared Rs 3.43 lakh.

Other ministers to have declared more than Rs 1 lakh as cash in hand include Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu, Maneka Gandhi and Mahesh Sharma.

This newspaper tried to get a response from Jaitley's office and was asked to get in touch after a couple of hours. But there was no official response till late tonight to either telephone calls or text messages.

Nayak hopes to steer the debate towards greater accountability for those in.

He says the question to ask is "whether these ministers ever stood in queues like the common citizen whom they are sworn to serve, to deposit their demonetised currency notes unless all of them had cash in smaller denominations or sent their peons or relatives or some other person to make the transaction".

Nayak says the inspiration came from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's directive yesterday to all party MPs to declare to BJP president Amit Shah by January 1 all their bank transactions between November 8 and December 31.

"You have treated the entire country like suspects and people are dying because of this," Nayak said.