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Baba Ramdev steps up pressure on government to enforce strong anti-graft laws

Varanasi, Sun, 13 Nov 2011 ANI

Varanasi/Pune, Nov.13 (ANI): Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has said that the ruling Congress party will face serious consequences in the upcoming assembly polls if it fails to introduce a strong legislation to check corruption, the flow of black money out of the country and retrieval of unaccounted money stashed away abroad.


Interacting with media in Varanasi on Saturday, Baba Ramdev said: "If the government does not declare black money as national treasure, if it does not take action under the Corruption and Money Laundering Act to bring it back to the country, if it does not accept our demands for sweeping reforms in India's economic system to curb corruption, illiteracy and poverty, if the federal government does not initiate measures to address these three issues soon, then it (ruling Congress party) will have to bear the brunt in the five upcoming assembly polls."


The Congress-led government in Asia's third-largest economy has been facing protests from several civil society groups and opposition parties against its alleged apathy in ploughing back billions of dollars of ill-gotten wealth parked in foreign tax havens by many Indians.


As per estimations of Global Financial Integrity, Washington based think tank, between 2002 and 2006, the yearly amount of money laundering from India was in the range 16 billion dollars that is around 1.5 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).


In January, the government, under intense political pressure, announced a slew of measures, including stronger disclosure pacts with foreign countries, to curb tax crimes and repatriate illicit funds.


Daring the Congress party, Baba Ramdev, now a frontline eminent anti-graft campaigner, urged the government to immediately initiate measures to bring back black money stashed in foreign banks.


In Pune, lawyer and civil society activist Prashant Bhushan, who is a close aide of veteran crusader Anna Hazare, defended the core committee of the nationwide anti-graft movement, which has been facing allegations of financial impropriety from several quarters.


Addressing a seminar, Bhushan said: "India Against Corruption has not taken very large funds. In fact, the total fund that India Against Corruption has received, during this entire campaign, is less than rupees 3 crores, out of which we still have in our bank balance, about a little less than half of that money. In fact, we stopped collecting funds from Ramlila Maidan when we found that we had more money than we really needed."


Identifying anomalies in the existing democratic structure of India, he added to say it was extremely difficult for an honest person to enter the field of politics and contended the scenario of public life in politics was criminalised and corrupt ridden at almost all levels.


"This whole business of representative democracy and elections has become so thoroughly corrupted that it has become virtually impossible for selfless people to come to power in this system. That is why, I keep saying, we need to move ahead, move beyond this model of representative democracy to a model of participatory democracy," added Bhushan.


For the past few weeks, the simmering face-off between India's ruling Congress-led government and the brigade of anti-graft campaigners led by Hazare, has turned into a political potboiler, with both sides routinely criticising one other on a range of issues.


In August, Hazare spearheaded a nationwide movement against corruption, holding a peaceful hunger strike to demand the establishment of an anti-graft agency with powers to investigate the Prime Minister, judges and civil servants.


Tapping into a groundswell of public anger against endemic corruption, Hazare succeeded in uniting the country's bulging middle-class against a hapless political class through a hunger strike, underlining voter anger at the Congress party.


A stung Congress retaliated by accusing Hazare of indulging in politics due to his anti-government stance. Many have also accused Hazare's key aides of indulging in corruption themselves.


Lately, the Congress party-led central government has come under intense public scrutiny over its perceived hesitancy in dealing with corruption, though leaders of the ruling coalition continue to remain on the defensive.


A string of multi-billion dollar corruption scandals has angered Indian opposition and masses, smothered Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's reform agenda and dented investor confidence at a crucial time when the economy is hit by inflation and higher interest rates.


In a 2010 survey, Transparency International rated India at 87 on its list of the world's most corrupt countries. (ANI)


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