he Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) is strengthening its drive against unaccounted foreign assets and benami properties with a slew of steps. It has launched a new online facility to encourage informants to tip off tax sleuths on black assets abroad. Further, it has started creating special Foreign Asset Investigation Units (FAIUs) in its 14 directorates across the country. Already, sources say, some 70 investigators have been transferred to these units to kickstart their operations. Sources say that CBDT has also put in a request for more Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officers. Since this requires additional resources, CBDT has sought more allocation in the Union Budget to fund the drive.
The FAIUs will function under director-general ranked income tax officers, and depending on how these units are grouped, they will also have directors, additional directors and sufficient support staff to perform their mandated job. All these units will be directly monitored by the CBDT, though it is unclear at this stage how this will be achieved.
Sources also reveal that CBDT is not averse to hiring the services of experts like data analysts and chartered accountants from outside the government if required. The FAIUs will also probe cases of Indian entities named in global tax document leaks such as the infamous Panama Papers. It does appear that the IRS cadre, often eclipsed by the other more high-profile civil services may get their moment in the sun.
Don’t keep vigilance cases pending, says CVC
In a significant move, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) has urged cadre controlling authorities including the Union Home Ministry and the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to facilitate and approve vigilance clearance of IAS, IPS and IFS officers if the state government or relevant department fails to respond within three months on vigilance queries.
The communication from Chief Vigilance Commissioner Sanjay Kothari also states that in all instances where the authorities fail to provide details of vigilance cases against babus within three months, the officers will be considered as clean and fit for promotion.
Sources say that this order is consequent to the commission discovering that often cadre-controlling authorities do not adhere to the rule, leading to long-pending and unresolved complaints shown against the officers’ names. Apparently, in some instances, even the concerned officers were unaware of a complaint pending against them!
If the CVC has its way, this could put an end to the many frivolous vigilance cases that are kept pending for months (and years in some cases) and give deserving officers their career dues.
Sharma to spearhead Modi’s UP plan
The advent of Arvind Sharma, a former Gujarat cadre IAS officer and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trusted lieutenant, in the hurly-burly of Uttar Pradesh politics is being watched keenly. Sharma recently joined the BJP after having retired as MSME Secretary at the Centre. He is to join the state legislative council.
Speculation is rife that Sharma could be named the Home Minister or even deputy chief minister of UP. But many see a larger plan for Sharma in UP politics. They feel that Modi wouldn’t depute his trusted ex-babu to simply become an MLC or minister. It is believed that Modi will start the party’s campaign for the 2022 assembly elections through Sharma. So, it is quite likely that Sharma’s role will be to help Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s government implement government schemes in the state before the polls.
The move also reiterates Modi’s oft-seen penchant for introducing his trusted bureaucrats in politics. Retired bureaucrats and technocrat professionals are his first choice—bringing RK Singh, Hardeep Puri and SK Jaishankar into politics is an example.
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