Panama Papers accused Amitabh Bachchan as GST brand ambassador; RTI reply heaps embarrassment on Modi government

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The central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has often faced criticism for its constant U-turns and glaring hypocrisy. For example, whilst the PM famously launched the campaign to save the girl child through Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, his own party ministers were in support of the rape and murder accused in Kathua earlier this year.

Amitabh Bachchan

In Unnao in Uttar Pradesh, another BJP MLA continues to face serious allegations of rape and abetment to murder. And on Sunday, Janta Ka Reporter carried a piece of news on a BJP’s women’s wing leader accusing her own party leaders of soliciting sexual favours in exchange of promotion within the party.

But, it seems BJP’s hypocrisy is not confined to just crimes against women. The government is now facing criticism for another instance of hypocrisy on dealing with the country’s finances.

An RTI reply has said that not only did the central government spend Rs 132.38 crore on advertisements for the GST. Incidentally, it also hired Panama Papers accused Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan to promote the unified tax system.

The selection of Bachchan, who ought to have been independently investigated for alleged tax fraud, as the person to give a moral lesson on paying taxes has left many baffled. Detecting the hypocrisy, academician Ashok Swain wrote, “When ‘Panama Boy’ Amitabh Bachchan becomes the Ambassador to promote GST, What Next? Salman Khan as Brand Ambassador to inform people against Drunk Driving and Akshaya Kumar as Brand Ambassador to promote the value of keeping Indian citizenship among NRIs!”

Journalist Swati Chaturvedi too tweeted sarcastically, “Yes because Amitabh B is such a model tax payer. Panama papers buried by the MoF (Ministry of Finance)!”

The government’s refusal to seriously investigate the findings of the Panama Papers Leak has come in sharp contrast to how India’s neighbouring country, Pakistan, dealt with similar allegations. Following the revelations on Panama Papers, the country’s top judiciary had disqualifed its prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, before barring him from contesting elections. Both Sharif and his daughter, Maryam, are currently serving jail sentences.

In its RTI reply, as reported by the PTI, the government said that as per the Bureau of Outreach and Communication under the ministry, the “expenditure on GST advertisements through this bureau” on print media stood at Rs 1,26,93,97,121.

The GST was rolled out on 1 July, 2017. Ahead of its roll out, the Centre had gone for a media blitz to create awareness about the new tax regime. The government had hired the services of Bachchan to teach the value of paying taxes to India’s population.

Days ahead of the implementation, the government started coming out with full-page advertisements in leading dailies explaining various procedures and processes to be followed by industries for complying with GST rules.

 

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