Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday warned of tough action under the benami law against unscrupulous elements using the Jan Dhan accounts of the poor to park black money and hailed people’s “sacrifice and patience” despite efforts to mislead them against demonetization. The Prime Minister, however, admitted that the dream of a “cashless society” can’t be achieved immediately. Once we start the move towards a less-cash society, the goal of a cashless society will not be far away,” he said in his monthly radio program ‘Mann ki Baat’.
On the mis-use of Jan Dhan accounts, Modi said even now, “some people think they can bring their black money”. “Unfortunately, they are misusing the poor for this purpose by misleading, luring or tempting them to put (such black) money into their accounts.” “I would tell such (unscrupulous) people that…please don’t play with the life of the poor,” Modi said.
Jan Dhan accounts, which accumulated just Rs 45,637 crore in over two years through November 8, witnessed additional deposits of a massive Rs 27,200 crore in just two weeks after demonetization. This raised suspicion that many people may be using such accounts of the poor to park illegal money. The Prime Minister’s warning of using the benami law came amid fears that although 23% of the 25.68 crore Jan Dhan accounts still have zero balance, even those can be tapped by such unscrupulous elements in the weeks to come.
The Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016, which came into effect on November 1, stipulates provisions of rigorous jail term of up to seven years plus fine (which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of a benami property), replacing the earlier law of a three-year jail term, or fine, or both. Assets of any kind—movable, immovable, tangible, intangible, any right or interest, or legal documents can qualify to be benami. A person could also face rigorous imprisonment for up to five years for knowingly giving false information and will have to pay a fine of up to 10% of the market value of the property.
In an apparent hint at the Opposition, Modi said attempts were being made to mislead the people against demonetization, even though they were making sacrifices for a better India. In a rally in Uttar Pradesh, Modi said: “On one hand we are trying to put a check over corruption with ‘Bhrashtachar Bandh’ while on the other hand some political parties are organizing ‘Bharat Bandh’. Should there be ‘Bharat Bandh’ or ‘Bhrashtachar Bandh’?