Baba Ramdev’s Crusade against Black Money

Reactions to his announcement of Indefinite Fast from June 4

Baba Ramdev’s announcement of indefinite fast from June 4 on the issue of Black Money has invoked mixed reactions amongst the cross-section of Indian society.

The UPA Government at the centre appears to be extremely nervous and has announced a series of measures followed by a personal appeal by the Prime Minister himself to Ramdev to call off his fast.

Timing of Ramdev’s fast is being viewed with skepticism by many as it comes within one month of Anna Hazare’s fast on the issue of Jan Lok Pal Bill. While Ramdev had personally joined Anna Hazare on the dais during his fast and offered his full support, the so called Anna Group doesn’t seem too pleased with Ramdev’s announcement of fast as they see this as a diversion to their efforts in finalizing the draft of the Lok Pal Bill. Interestingly, ahead of Ramdev’s fast, sharp differences between the Anna Group and Government representatives have come to surface during the recent meeting of the committee of drafting Lok Pal Bill on whether PM and the Higher Judiciary be brought under the ambit of the Lok Pal. Some of the Anna Group members have even threatened to walk out of the committee if the impasse continues. Ramdev has further fuelled the controversy by supporting government’s position by saying that the PM and Higher Judiciary should not be brought under Lok Pal. However, at the same time he also said that he did not want to go into the controversial issue and involve himself in a public debate on that. The media reported Ramdev’s statement in a big way and termed it as a “divide in the civil society”. Prior to this controversy, Anna Hazare had offered his full support to Ramdev. However, after Ramdev’s comments on Lok Pal, Arvind Kejriwal, one of the members of the joint committee on drafting the Lokpal Bill, said they would try to convince him about inclusion of the Prime Minister in the Lokpal ambit. On the other hand, Kiran Bedi, in an interview to NDTV, termed it as “Minority View” within the civil society.

The so called elite section of the society has not backed Ramdev and in fact many have been extremely critical to the extent of being contemptuous. NDTV has termed Ramdev’s announcement “Competitive Fasting” (with reference to Anna’s fast). Javed Akhtar in his tweet immediately after Ramdev’s announcement said – “Remember my words. Baba Ramdev is making a major mistake. He will ultimately have to end his hunger strike by eating a humble pie.” Satish Jacob, BBC correspondent in India, said on NDTV “While I have huge respect for Anna Hazare, I can not say the same thing about the Saffron Clad Baba (Ramdev)”. Tavleen Singh, famous columnist said on Twitter – “Why does our government succumb so easily to these alleged crusaders and their mad ideas?”

While the Congress Party has maintained total silence on Ramdev’s fast, the principal opposition party BJP has thrown its full weight behind him. BJP’s spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said – “We fully support Baba Ramdev’s crusade and we have great respect for him.” It is anticipated that Ramdev will get whole hearted support from the RSS and its allied organization as they consider the issue of Black Money very close to their heart. Other opposition parties have however so far refrained from commenting. It would be particularly interesting to have the reaction of Brinda Karat of CPM who had earlier accused Ramdev of mixing human bones with his herbal medicine, a charge vehemently denied by Ramdev. Brinda’s comment had revoked sharp reactions from the supporters of Ramdev and the CPM had then decided not to lock horns with Ramdev any further.

The Real Issue

There have been wide-ranging estimates of the amount of Indian black money stashed abroad from $500 billion to $1.4 trillion. The most recent Global Financial Integrity study (2006) shows that the average amount stashed away from India annually during 2002-06 is $27.3 billion which amounts to $136.5 billion during the five-year period.

The campaign against Black Money has been gathering momentum in recent years. Earlier this year, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s announcement that he will soon come out with a list of 2000 Swiss Account Holders, many of whom are Indians, had set the cat amongst the pigeons.

In April 2009, former Union law minister Ram Jethmalani, former Punjab director-general of police K P S Gill, former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash Kashyap, artist Gopal Sharman and academic B B Dutta filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court seeking its directive to the Centre to bring back over $ 1.4 trillion of Black Money allegedly stashed away in foreign banks between 2002 and 2006. The petition said directions should be issued to the government so that it can instruct foreign banks, particularly the USB Bank, to freeze the deposits of Indian nationals kept illegally with them. During the hearing on this PIL, the SC has rapped the Central Government on the knuckles several times. One such controversial issue was regarding sharing of the details of 26 Indians who had accounts in the Liechtenstein’s LGT Bank in Germany. The Govt initially resisted the demand but finally submitted to the Supreme Court the list of 26 Indians but at the same time rejected its sharing in the public domain saying that it would violate a sovereign agreement between India and Germany.

Similarly, there has been a huge debate over unearthing the Swiss Bank accounts held by Indians. The opposition parties particularly the BJP and the Left have been accusing the Govt of not doing enough to seek information from the Swiss Government who, in their opinion, has expressed its willingness to share the same based on specific request from the government of any country. It is believed that approximately one third (~ $500 billion) of the total black money is slashed in Swiss Bank accounts.

What will happen now?

Many people may not be aware, but Baba Ramdev has been actively campaigning against Corruption and Black Money through “Bharat Swabiman Andolan” (http://bharat-swabhiman.com/en/) a forum founded by him in 2009.

I have already posted Ramdev’s Letter to the PM listing his demands (https://virtualopinion.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/baba-ramdevs-letter-to-pm/). Media has selectively reported only those demands which would make better headlines such a death penalty for the corrupt, recall of Rs. 500 and 1000 bills etc. It is unlikely that Ramdev would really expect all his demands to be met and therefore he may have short listed his key demands already. The Government would argue that it has already initiated action on some of the key demands such as Lok Pal Bill and a new Land Acquisition Act. On some other such as recall of Rs. 500 and 1000, the government may argue that it is not a practical demand and may cite examples of the past. By the way, for those who may not be aware as far back as in 1946 Indian had notes of denomination as high as Rs. 10,000 and demonetization of higher denomination currency notes is not a new concept. As per the website (http://www.rbi.org.in/scripts/BS_CurrencyFAQView.aspx?Id=39#9) of Reserve Bank of India – “Rs. 1000 and Rs.10000 banknotes, which were then in circulation were demonetized in January 1946, primarily to curb unaccounted money. The higher denomination banknotes in Rs.1000, Rs.5000 and Rs.10000 were reintroduced in the year 1954, and these banknotes (Rs.1000, Rs.5000 and Rs.10000) were again demonetized in January 1978.”

Baba Ramdev certainly enjoys massive public support which explains why the UPA Government is not taking his threat lightly. Today when he arrived at Delhi, four senior ministers Pranab Mukherji, Kapil Sibal, Pawan Bansal and Subodh Kant Sahai and the Cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekhar were there at the airport to receive him. Not even the US President Obama had got such an unprecedented welcome. It will be interesting to watch the developments leading up to June 4 and beyond. My guess is that having hyped the matter so much, Baba Ramdev would not like to create an anti climax by calling off his fast. He would also not like to lose this opportunity to test and expand his mass base. However, he has to very carefully work out a strategy on how to end the fast with a winning note. Even if the Congress emissaries failed to persuade him to call off the fast, they must have certainly tried to get an assurance that the campaign is not used to directly attack the Congress Party and the  UPA Government. As the BJP and RSS have announced their full support to Ramdev, they will also try their best to extract the maximum political mileage from this event. To this extent, Ramdev’s fast is likely to polarize the Indian politics, the civil society and the media.

Public anger against rampant corruption has not died down after Anna Hazare’s fast and people would surely back any movement against corruption. Ramdev will surely use his Yoga teachings to keep the crowd glued to him and his unique and somewhat rustic oratory will provide enough entertainment for the masses. Unlike Anna Hazare, Ramdev is physically much more fit and can sustain the fast for a much longer period. It is worth mentioning here that Anna Hazare’s doctors were not too pleased after his fast and have attributed the deterioration in his heath to the long fast.

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Comments

  • sagar pilare  On June 1, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I think, just as Anna had chosen the date (4th April) for his circus, which was after the world cup and before the start of IPL matches, Ramdev Baba has cleverly chosen June 4. Monsoon is coming ealier this year, as per the forecast of metereological department. Ramdev has already announced that there will be hunger strikes throughout India with his hunger strike at Ramleela. I think, his cirus will also continue for 3 to 4 days, and on the onset of monsoon he will stop the agitation to ‘avoid inconvenience” to his ‘crores of followers’ and postpone it for a future date.

    • patra  On June 9, 2011 at 6:44 am

      i think u people hav no brain . u r lazy,foolish people . by sitting in ur home u can only comments rubish. Because of u foolish people India can’t progress .U r like useless weeds.U people think that u r very smart but it is not true at all . I want 2 explain u that ramdev ji is in fast for 6 days for the benifits of our country..can i ask u what hav u done 4 ur country?? can u stay without food atleast one day?? You don’t hav any rights to comments… u foolis man…..

    • patra  On June 9, 2011 at 6:54 am

      brainless creacture .. how far hav u studied i think u r illiterate….. please don’t comments against ramdev ji……. if u comment again then i will use a word which u woun’t like to read……………………

      • Rahul  On June 9, 2011 at 2:07 pm

        I agree with u Patra….

  • anirudh sharma  On June 2, 2011 at 2:28 am

    pl send me full address of ramlila maidan becouse so many ramlila maidan in delhi. i want to go there with my family and friends . iam with babaji with my heart. pl sent me address

  • virtualopinion  On June 2, 2011 at 5:04 am

    @AnirudhSharma – Thanks for sparing your time to read my blog. Ramlila Maidan is near New Delhi Railway Station (Ajmeri Gate side).

  • sahilsoni79  On June 2, 2011 at 7:18 am

    Petroleum rates high, every item price high,corruption on highest stage, it was the right time to rise againt this government… Baba cannot hv any wrong intentions.. He does nt need anything.. Already has 1100 crores… Bt he is doing only for indians…

  • kukkumol  On June 4, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Babaji, Do justice to your conscience.Then you bend to no injustice.
    The cost of Indians’ faith put in your hands.The cost you pay create a page in History.
    When you humble before your Conscious reality ,God heals your land.

  • ananth  On June 5, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    don’t worry baba all over india suuport to you please step againt corruption and congress party. the all over the world did not this scale of corruption. the corruption is widely all over the india. full responsible for congress party the manmonah sigh is toy. the sonia gandi his not aware indias historical. please i kindly request all the india do not vote congress and his allience.

  • Jiwan  On June 6, 2011 at 4:43 am

    Baba, we are in your side always.keep starting campaign against black money. Very soon, many secret faces will be open who are hiding black money. No doubt some of notable black money holders faces hide behind congress and its UPA

  • patra  On June 9, 2011 at 6:28 am

    I support BJP because they do not hav black money….. that is why they are strongly protesting against it….

  • patra  On June 9, 2011 at 6:30 am

    support bjp not congress .

  • guest  On June 12, 2011 at 4:14 am

    we all indians should understand this is foreign bank and govt. cannot do much in foreign bank policies…I understans Ramdev’s intention is great but still we can’t see another civil war among ourself…lets make everybody undersand this is nice step and finish this without hurting ourselves….

  • akhilesh kr singh  On July 2, 2011 at 10:15 am

    i support swami ramdev for all the movement lead by him agaisnt black money or against corucption , think in the last two year every month we got the news on one scam , any one is not less the 20 thousand crore. starting from 2G spectrum, adarsh society scam, commonwealth game scam, and the latest is gas scam , think where is that scam money is going i,e the black money is going to swiss bank , or itlay bank, or other country bank , so iam appeling to indians please suppor swami Ramdev and anna hazzare movement against cooruption ,

  • Stefy  On July 8, 2011 at 7:36 am

    Oh! he is another man ..who actually sitting jobless and has no work so thought to gain some attention on … I totally dnt support him for dis… i knw i m being foolish .. Bt tel me sumthing what made him think dat if he also goes on fast mite corruption wud stop! bt anywyaz as usual d same results .. corruption still going!! … now what .. Now shuld people leave dere work and sit wid ramdev … dats is d solution guyz… If dis is only d way u can stop it den i think it cud have been done b4 wen ol dis started ..

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