Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said authorities in Switzerland had agreed to confirm or deny evidences collected by the Indian government on illegal account holders there.
"The Swiss authorities had informed us that they would not co-operate in the matter of stolen HSBC data on bank account-holders. However, after negotiations, they agreed to confirm or deny evidences collected by the Indian government," Jaitley told reporters. "It is no longer safe to keep assets outside the country illegally." Switzerland's Federal Gazette has made public names of five Indian nationals, including of industrialist Yash Birla, with regard to ongoing tax probes against them in India.
On his visit to Gujarat on Tuesday, Jaitley showcased one year of the Narendra Modi government. A video, Yeh toh bas shuruat hai (This is just the beginning), released here showed various steps taken by the government to curb corruption and improve the situation in employment, power supply, social security, inflation and skill development. The five-minute video also talked of the PM's foreign travels.
Spending on infrastructure, especially irrigation and social security scheme packages, would be the focus of the government in the second year, he said. "We will focus on infrastructure with an emphasis on rural infrastructure, especially irrigation, along with social security scheme packages that we are preparing in the second year. In the first year, we have been able to bring overall inflation under control. Our government's food management has been such that we are ensuring an adequate increase in their supply where prices of products are rising," said Jaitley. Agreeing that the agriculture sector was not in good shape, Jaitley said the government was liberalising norms in weather forecasting and working towards more schemes that would benefit farmers. Enumerating the government's efforts in the first year, Jaitley said schemes like the Jan Dhan Yojana had seen 155 million families benefiting from it, while Mudra Bank had already funded 57.7 million small traders.
"We want to provide social security to the poor. Only 20 per cent of our population is covered by insurance. We have already seen 75-80 million families being covered for accident and life insurance, of the total 255 million families in the country. We are not a pensioned society, with only 11 per cent of the families earning pension. With the Atal Pension Yojana, even the weaker sections will stand to benefit," Jaitley said.
On the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Jaitley reiterated the move was the "biggest taxation reform" the country had seen. Jaitley said under GST, a consolidated market would be created across the country with a uniform tax rate and seamless transport of goods. On the non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks, he said, "There was a time when NPAs had grown a lot. When we came to power, the NPAs of PSU banks hovered at six per cent. However, while the previous quarter (Oct-Dec 2014) saw NPAs at 5.64 per cent, it came down to 5.2 per cent in the quarter ended March 31, 2015.
The government wants public sector banks to be run professionally. The moment economic activity increases, this number would reduce. We have also professionalised appointments of managing directors and CEOs in banks and stopped appointing government nominees for directorship."
On the unclaimed money with the government, Jaitley said it was being appropriated to be used for senior citizens' social security schemes.