Demonetisation: Prime Minister Modi vows to crack down on 'benami' properties
Modi added that businessmen who make digital payments will get income tax benefits Photograph: (Reuters)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi woved Sunday to crack down on "benami" properties. Benami properties are properties bought in other people's names in order to convert "black" or untaxed money into "white" and to avoid pay tax.
Referring to the benami properties law, which has so far been lying dormant, he said: “We have retrieved it and turned it into an incisive law against benami property. In the coming days, this law will also become operational. For the benefit of the nation, for the benefit of the people, whatever needs to be done will be accorded our top priority,” he said.
Modi continued his digital drive on Sunday, exhorting people on his monthly radio address "Mann ki Baat" to continue going "cashless".
To start with, Mr Modi announced the launch of two lucky-draw schemes -- the Lucky Grahak Yojana for consumers and the Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojana for small traders -- to encourage people to transact digitally.
Starting today, for the next 100 days, Mr Modi said 15,000 lucky shoppers -- who make digital payments rather than use cash -- would get back Rs 1,000 every day. The draw, he said, would be run in a 100 cities across the country.
"Lakhs of people will get crores of rupees," Mr Modi said.
There would also be a weekly draw with that prize money running into the lakhs, he added.
“A bumper draw will be held on BR Ambedkar’s birthday (April 14),” he said.
Small traders who go digital, Mr Modi said, would be given income tax rebates.
"They (the small traders) must encourage cashless transactions," Modi said.
The prime minister also vowed to crack down on 'benami' (fictitious) properties, adding that he would do everything to thwart corruption in the country. People usually buy such properties to avoid taxes.
Curiosity to go cashless
"Today there is curiosity among people as to how can one go cashless. People want to learn from each other," Mr Modi said
"You will be surprised to know that 30 crore people in India have RuPay cards, of those 20 crore belong to poor families who have Jan Dhan accounts," he added.
And finally, said Mr Modi, cashless transactions have seen a 200 to 300% increase in recent times
The informal sector
Mr Modi also touched upon the informal sector, which is where most of the stories of hardship are coming in from. (The demonetisation of India's 500- and 1,000-rupee notes on November 8 sucked 86% of total currency in circulation at the time out of the market. With so much cash gone, things have been hard for people in a country where 68% of transactions are cash-based. If you were to calculate by volume, that figure goes up to 98%. But the government has stuck to its guns, saying the demonetisation would put a stop to "black" or untaxed money and terror funding. And since then, it has also said it would like to see India becoming a "cashless" or at least a "less-cash" economy.)
"Informal sector is very significant in our country and mostly they receive salary/wages in cash and are often even exploitated," Mr Modi said.
A golden opportunity
But looking on the bright side, Mr Modi said: "This digital movement is a golden opportunity for youth and start-ups. They can open new avenues through it."
And that, "We should be at the forefront of using digital means to make payments and transactions."
Feeback, both bad and good
He said people had written to him, telling him about the problems they had had to put up with because of the demonetisation. But some people he said, praised the demonetisation, and how it fights corruption.
"I thank people as they not only went through hardships but also answered back those who tried to mislead the public," said Mr Modi.
The many rule changes
"Lot of questions are being raised on frequent change of rules but I want to say that I have decided to take on those indulging in corruption," Mr Modi said. He added that the changes in rules -- there have been 60 so far since November 8 -- were a result of feedback. A way of rectifying the rules to try and make things easier for people.
Not the end, only the beginning
"I assure you that this is not the end, this is just the beginning in our fight against corruption. It is our priority to do whatever it takes for the betterment of our nation," said Mr Modi.
He added, "Black money hoarders are being nabbed across the country. Secret is that information by common people enables us to do it."
And that, "Many are writing to me: Modiji thak mat jaana, rukk mat jaana aur jitna kathor kadam utha sakte ho uthao." (Do not tire, do not stop, take the harshest step that you can.)