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Benami, Black, Baba

The Mint reports that the Income Tax Department has been investigating the many benami properties owned by shell companies, belonging to the jailed Asaram. He may be bapu to some, but to us, he is a sinister convict, in a heinous crime of raping a most innocent teenage girl. The Department has found that two of his front companies own about 49 valuable properties all over the country, wherein over Rs. 100 crores huge been invested. It links very well with the fact that, during a tax raid on a prominent Mumbai based builder a few years ago, it was found that Asaram had invested a few hundred crores with him. The tax department continues to investigate other such benami properties and investments of this criminal and is confident of unearthing many more.

The ITD’s confidence to do so, is not misplaced. During an income tax raid on Asaram a few years ago, the ITD is reported to have found undisclosed assets and incriminating evidence of tax evasion running into thousands of crores. It found among others, sackfuls of currency notes, fixed deposits, shares, government securities, as also loads of property documents. It was also found that he had often usurped public lands in prime locations, and had set up his ashram there, in apparent connivance with prominent local politicians, who were his devotees seeking political support. He had also remitted lots of money abroad. His wealth mongering knew no bounds and utter greed and not spirituality was writ all over his dubious empire, of sleaze and avarice. A similar pattern of greed and money mongering was found in the case of the nefarious Ramrahim, who too is languishing in jail on rape charges. It is most unfortunate that these babas of rape, do not just plunder the modesty of their unsuspecting devotees, but their wealth too.

The pattern of build up of such ill-gotten vast empires is time tested, robust and simple. Religion is the most lucrative business globally and a sucker is born every minute. It is not just these dubious babas who gather money, but even the likes of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, whose nuns have been found selling babies at Ranchi, do so. The eager devotees, for some strange motivation shower money on these Godmen, who greedily take it and surprisingly promise salvation. They neither keep proper records, nor do they pay taxes and thus hoard the wealth and park it into undisclosed assets, by way of shell companies, benami assets, benami companies and investments, in order to evade the law. Their alliance with powerful netas and babus, often protects them from any action against them, till perhaps a rape charge finally emerges and hell breaks loose, and their empires of sleaze and avarice are dismantled.  In India benami, black and Godmen go hand in hand.

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Akhilesh Bhargava