ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

In the kind of society we have built for ourselves, the younger members of the wealthy, fresh from the finishing schools set up for their edification, are not easily rattled. Why should therefore the town cynic interrupt the ongoing process of money and more money accruing to him or her through pilferage pure and simple and income distribution further tilting in favour of the right - that is to say, wrong - categories?

Versions of the story are widespread. That colourful personality, A K Fazlul Haq, had a busy time on assumption of office as chief minister of Bengal in the mid-1930s following the introduction of provincial autonomy in the country via the promulgation of the Government of India Act. He had a generous cluster of nephews who were immediately rewarded with attractive government jobs here and there. Remonstrations took place, but convictions that are held firm are not easily dislodged. The nephews got absorbed in cushy official positions in no time.

Going by the evidence, the country’s current finance minister is a firm adherent of the subcontinent’s dominant ethos; ‘what can I do if all my nephews happen to be brilliant?’. The finance minister has not concentrated attention on plying nephews with rewards. But daughters-in-law enjoying tax-exempt status for capital gains have engaged his full attention. The minister has shown the utmost consideration for such daughters-in-law. Those who accuse daughters-in-law of shady deals in tax-exempt Mauritius – the purpose is to evade payment on capital gains – should be treated with due contempt, these people are a slur on freewheeling democracy. The finance minister has been outspoken, as outspoken as he could be: those running down his daughter-in-law and her friends in similarly placed positions, the finance minister does not have the least doubt, belong to an anti-national and anti-patriotic breed. The initiative youngsters of the present generation are displaying in the share markets and other similar financial centres is paving the way for fresh capital gains which are enriching, apart from foreign speculators, groups of comfortably placed middle class households in the country as well. These are exciting times, and the pyrotechnics these sons and daughters and sons-in-law and daughters-in-law of these households are engaging in are instrumental for windfall earnings of a considerable order for these families. These earnings are adding to the income and assets of politically important persons at different societal levels. There is little impact on direct foreign investment though.

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