Finance Bill's political funding tenet upends govt's vow to tackle graft

The proposed amendments would also open a window for political outfits in power to leverage granting of contracts to interested parties. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Noida, Uttar Pradesh, India Mar 24, 2017, 06.46 AM (IST)

Despite the Indian government's pledge to increase transparency, they are aiming to enshrine a law that will make corporate funding to political parties more difficult to track.

Currently, corporations that give money to political parties must publicly divulge who they fund. But the Finance Bill's proposed change, tabled by the Indian government February during the annual budget session, will no longer require businesses to do so. 

The Finance Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on March 22 amid mass walkouts by opposition parties. 

Under the proposed alterations to the Companies Act, political parties in power can more easily leverage the granting of contracts to interested parties. It will also be difficult to prove that an auction has taken place at all, making it possible for the government to award contracts without proving that any competitive process has taken place to earn the job.

The Finance Bill has been assailed by opposition parties as being the outcome of a unilateral process.

Money bill

Another controversial change in the proposed law is the "money bill". If the new legislation is enacted, the "money bill" will bypass the Upper House, also known as the Rajya Sabha, and will go directly from the Lower House, or the Lok Sabha, to the President of India.

This legislation has been particularly criticised by the opposition for strengthening the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as its presence isn't particularly strong in the Rajya Sabha.

But the upside of the mini-sweep has been the government's decision to roll out electoral bonds. Business houses will be incentivised to make political donations through digital payments and cheques to make the process of donations more transparent.

Aadhar card

The other big change announced on March 22 is the newly increased importance of Aadhar cards, a multipurpose national identity document. On March 22 it was announced that Indian nationals will have to furnish their Aadhar details while filing tax returns after July 1, 2017.

The Aadhar card requires citizens to give the government both their biometric information, or their fingerprints, as well as a retinal scan. 

When asked on March 22 if the government was making Aardhar cards mandatory--essentially asking, will Indians have to give the government their fingerprints and retinal scans, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "Yes, we are".