New Delhi, Nov 18: EAS Sarma, former secretary in the Ministry of Finance, has recently written a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi raising questions about the lavish wedding ceremony of former BJP Minister of Karnataka G Janardhana Reddy's daughter in Bengaluru.
According to Sarma, one of the most upright former bureaucrats, who had faced the wrath of various governments because of his refusal to follow their diktats, Modi should catch "bigger sharks nearer home, not the petty cash hoarder" to fight against black money.
Sarma, 1965-batch IAS officer of the Andhra Pradesh cadre, even during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's regimes wrote several letters questioning government's stand on various issues.
Read the full letter below:
Shri Narendra Modi
Dear Shri Modiji,
Subject:- Drive against Black Money
I write this in continuation of my recent letter dated 12-11-2016 on the subject. I enclose a copy of that letter for your ready reference.
I thought that I should bring to your notice a BBC news report (Lavish wedding angers cash-strapped Indians) that appeared today at a time when the common man/woman in the country is asked to join your grand campaign against black money and, therefore, bear the pain and trauma of demonetisation. In case your office has not shown this report, I enclose a copy of that report for your perusal.
The lavish wedding is that celebrated by Shri G Janardhana Reddy, a former BJP Minister of Karnataka.
In the past, one of your present Cabinet Ministers took help from him for contesting elections. He continues to enjoy BJP's blessings as evident from the fact that several of BJP's bigwigs in Karnataka are already seen rubbing shoulders with Shri Janardhana Reddy at the pre-wedding functions.
The cost of the wedding is estimated at more than Rs 500 crores, a figure that not many ordinary Indians can even imagine!
The invitation for the wedding is gold-plated fitted with LCD screens, costing crores of rupees.
The wedding sari costs Rs 17 crores and the wedding jewellery Rs 90 Crores. There are 3,000 "bouncers", 300 and odd policemen, sniffer dogs and bomb squads deployed to maintain "law & order" at the wedding premises.
When Indian soldiers are fighting on the border and many losing their lives, this is something that should rouse the conscience of any patriotic Indian.
Despite a CBI investigation going on against this person and despite your grand "surgical strike" against black money, he seems to be at no disadvantage whatsoever in finding mountains of ready cash and resources for all this obscene display of affluence.
Shri Janardhana Reddy was quoted in the BBC report as saying that "he had mortgaged properties in Bangalore and Singapore to raise money for the wedding and that all payments were made six months ago when the planning started".
Which are those properties in Bangalore and Singapore? Have the Enforcement Directorate, CBDT, Serious Fraud Office, CBI etc. investigated this?
How much of undeclared cash is available for such a lavish wedding? When the Income Tax Dept is hounding smaller traders all over the country, why have they remained non-committal in this particular case?
Many persons standing in long queues in front of banks and ATMs are heard expressing surprise and anguish at the likes of Shri Janardhana Reddy not being seen anywhere in any of the queues, when the ordinary citizen is forced to wait and get tired for drawing his or her own money in the name of fighting the common cause propounded by you in the speeches that were broadcast nationwide during the last few days.
Will BJP formally announce that all those in its own ranks attending such a lavish wedding, especially at a time when you have subjected the masses to the demonetisation distress, will be asked to quit the party to send a clear message that the party is against black money holders?
You cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds at the same time. If you wish to flush out black money in real earnest, Mr Prime Minister, you have to flush it out from the bigger sharks nearer home, not the petty cash hoarders.
If you wish to tell the nation that you mean business, the people of this country wish to see some big fish apprehended, their benami properties confiscated and an example is set to deter the others from violating the law of the land.
I had earlier suggested tangible steps for you to consider.
Kindly revoke the retrospective amendment to Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, as the amendment compromises the national interest.
Proceed against those Chief Ministers, Ministers and other public functionaries who have illicit offshore accounts.
Trace their benami properties and get them attached.
Order an independent investigation into both election funding and election expenditure of all political parties for the last three years.
Announce that your party at least will subject itself to the RTI Act.
Without these minimal measures, the commendable drive you have displayed in demonetising higher currency notes may lose its momentum.
Former Secretary to GOI