Pulled it out of another blog of mine to place it here.
Translated by Anuradha Ramani and Shubashree Pinglay
(A bit edited, for space; a bit corrected for order.)
I am pleased to see all of you present here in such large numbers. All fellow Indians, who are watching me on TV, youngsters, my brothers and sisters, today is ICAI’s foundation day. My hearty congratulations! It is a pleasant coincidence that today is also the foundation day of GST – Good and Simple Tax. I feel privileged to be present amidst all of you on this historic day.
Youngsters, the Constitution of India entrusts chartered accountants with a sacred responsibility. To distinguish between good and bad, and to certify and audit; it’s a right, which only you have. Just like doctors think for the good health of the people in the society, similarly, the economic health of the country lies in your hands. A doctor doesn’t intentionally ask you to fall sick by giving wrong advice to increase his wealth. Instead, he tells you to stay healthy. Similarly, you have the responsibility to ensure that the society remains free from financial malpractices. You are a pillar of the economy. You are the pillar of the financial system of the country.
CAS ARE RECOGNIZED WORLDWIDE
I am privileged to be here. Chartered Accountants are recognized worldwide for their understanding of finance. Your course is dynamic, and your exam is known for its difficulty and credibility. I am happy to inaugurate the new Chartered Accountancy course. I am sure, the new curriculum will further strengthen the future generations of professionals and we will be able to develop our human resource requirements as per global standards, and continuously improvise through innovation and software development for finance, based on needs. A new market awaits you.
Our scriptures debate four purposes of a soul, the universal principles of Dharma (righteousness, duty and moral order), Artha (wealth and prosperity), Kama (worldly desires) and Moksha (liberation). When we think of Rishis and Munis, we think about Dharma and Moksha. Similarly, you are on par with Artha (economic prosperity). It won’t be wrong if I call you the Rishis and Munis of the world of economic prosperity. Your guidance is in the economic and financial aspect is as important as the spiritual guidance given by Rishis and Munis. Every CA has the responsibility to show the right artha and guide the people.
Your love is encouraging me to speak my heart out. There is no difference between your patriotism and mine. We both want our country to prosper. On the other hand, we cannot ignore certain ground realities. Our elders said that if there is a fire, and the family loses its wealth, the family could become prosperous again by holding on to their principles, even if their time is terrible. But, if a family member has the habit of stealing, that family can never become prosperous. When one member breaks the rules, the family is doomed. Similarly, any country can overcome problems like earthquakes, floods, etc. People have the strength to overcome. But, if the nation has thieves and looters, the country and the society can never prosper. Dreams shatter and development stalls. Only a few end up persistently working to stop such malpractice. Our government is continuously taking steps to stop these malpractices over the last three years. We made new laws, scrapped old ones, signed new treaties with several countries, and modified existing agreements.
You can see the effect of our probe on black money internationally. Swiss Bank’s new figures prove this fact. Growth in black money deposited by Indians in Swiss Banks has reached a record low. 30 years back, in 1987, Swiss banks revealed the amount of funds deposited by each country in Swiss Banks. This amount reduced by 45% since 2014. In 2013, the number had increased by 42%! Black money hoarders can anticipate a lot of trouble, as Swiss Banks will start sending real-time numbers very soon. I am sure none of you support such hoarders.
Let me tell you a secret. You can pass on this secret to them secretly. On the one hand, I am running Swacch Bharat Abhiyan to clean my country of filth. On the other, I am running a cleanliness drive to clean the financial mess in the economy. You all remember 8thNovember way too well. Demonetization was a big step towards reducing black money. I have heard that you all had to work harder than usual, harder than you ever worked in your entire career! Many CAs were on Diwali vacation and had to cancel their vacations to attend to this. Some CAs burnt their midnight oil. I don’t know what you did was right or wrong, for the country or for your client, but you worked for sure after you returned.
Friends, I would like to share a few things with you for the first time since the crackdown on black money. You understand the significance of this information. The government is continuously doing a lot of data mining on black money deposited including the source and transfer. So far, we haven’t questioned anyone. I told you earlier that you are no less patriotic than I am. But you see, more than three lakh registered companies are under scanner for their transactions. We got this information from the data mining done so far. We have a lot of mining still to be done. I don’t know what the numbers will add up to when we finish mining, and that is when we will make our mission clear. On one side, the government, media, the traders were keenly anticipating 30thJune. On the other hand, one-lakh companies were blacklisted by a single signature in the last 48 hours and taken off the Registrar of Companies.
Those who play politics cannot take such decisions. Only those who live for the country can make these decisions. Those who looted the poor must return the wealth to the poor. Besides this, the government has identified more than 37,000 shell companies who hide the black money, hawala money and do things behind the veil. Stringent action will be taken against these companies. Companies, which break the law, will be penalized and action will be made. I am aware that the step taken to cleanse black money out of the system is going to harm a lot of political parties.
My CA friends on your foundation day, I want to ask you a question. You have the strength to make things right after demonetization. But there must be someone who helped these companies. These thieve companies would have gone to some financial doctor. I am sure they wouldn’t have come to you, but they would have gone to someone who helped such people, guided them, and shielded them. They have to be recognized and sidelined. Isn’t it?
ONLY 38 LAC REPORT INCOME MORE THAN Rs. 10 LAC
Friends, I was told that there are more than 272,000 CAs and more than two lakh articled assistants. If we add up CAs, articled assistants and the government employees in finance, it would add up to more than eight lakh people in the field. The estimated number of engineers in India is two crore. This means the cream has crores of professionals. If we include the lavish mansions in big cities, their value is in crores. The number of Indians who traveled abroad is estimated to be 2.18 crore. But, the irony is that only 38 lakh people declared income of over Rs 10 lac last year! Can you believe this? Are there only 38 lakh people? This is the bitter truth. I think the salaried class pays most of the tax. This is the situation. Despite this kind of income declaration, it is evident that crores of vehicles are purchased every year, but the country’s treasury is not filled.
Any client or person pays tax only when the tax environment is positive, and he is motivated to pay. If he gets a hint that the person who is supposed to guide him asks him instead to hide the truth, he will never hesitate to follow the wrong path. Thus, identifying the wrong people and taking action against them is very important. You also need to take harsh steps.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING, ICAI?
In your profession, you train the human resource, you decide the curriculum, you conduct exams, and you make the rules and regulations as well as take action against defaulters. The Temple of the Constitution of India and 1.25 crore people of India have given you this right. Why is it that over the last 25 years, only 25 CAs have been investigated? I heard that more than 1,400 cases are pending and that each case takes years to close. Isn’t this a matter of concern for highly qualified professionals?
Thousands of youth sacrificed their lives and went to the gallows during our freedom struggle. Leaders went to jail. Professionals came forward in the freedom movement, most of them being barristers. They knew the provisions of the law against freedom fighters. Despite knowing the consequences, they came forward and fought. There are many names, and we can never forget them. Our nation is incomplete without remembering them.
Today, in 2017, our country is taking a new path. We have fulfilled the dream of ‘One Nation One Tax.’ Chartered Accountants play a vital role in the society. You need not play with your lives or go to jail like our freedom fighters did. This is now your country and the future of your children. The financial health of the country is now in your hands. You have the responsibility to ensure your clients are honest and maintain integrity in their accounting to end black money and corruption. Chartered Accountants are trusted ambassadors of the country’s financial system. You are the interface between the taxpayers, government, and companies.
CA SIGNATURE IS MORE VALUABLE THAN THE PMs
The Prime Minister’s sign doesn’t have as much value as much as a Chartered Accountant’s signature. Your signature is the proof of truth and trust. It doesn’t matter if the company is small or big. The government and the people believe your signature. Have you ever wondered what happens after you certify the companies Balance Sheets with your signature? It doesn’t stop there. A new cycle begins after you sign. I came here to show you the new cycle. You sign the balance sheets, and the government officials accept it. When you certify a company, a retired man believes the certification and invests his retirement savings in a Mutual Fund. A poor widow invests her savings in the share market. When a company is not given a proper audit report, the truth is concealed. But when the truth about the company is revealed, the company doesn’t suffer much. The life of the widow and the retiree are ruined, as they trusted your signature before investing their savings.
I request you all, please don’t shatter the faith of 1.25 crore Indians who believe your signature before making critical decisions. If you feel that the trust has already been broken, come forward and take a pledge on 1stJuly 2017, on your Foundation day, that you will work towards change. I invite you to tread the path of honesty and integrity. Understand the importance of your work and then decide your way. The society will be proud of you, and you will realize it.
Friends, the word ‘tax return’ may have several interpretations. In my personal opinion, the ,tax that is used for development of our country is called tax return. This plays a vital role in curbing inflation. Money is used for scholarships, new gas connections, providing health services, etc. for the poor. A poor man works even in sicknes so that his children don’t sleep hungry. The tax that you pay is used to fund the army who are striving day and night to protect our country. It is used to provide electricity to those villages that haven’t seen electricity since independence. What is greater privilege than serving the nation? One signature can help the poor. The possibility is limitless. You have a huge responsibility and will play a critical role towards the development of our country. My inner voice tells me that 1stJuly 2017 will be a turning point in the history of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. Once you decide to choose the righteous path, no one will have the guts to evade tax. A person knows he can commit a crime only when he knows that there is someone to save his back.
GST IS A MEDIUM TO SERVE
Friends, GST is a medium to serve. Please talk to people. I heard that you are starting help desks to answer queries and guide people. I am happy. Make them aware of the law, and bring them into the path of honesty. CAs now have a new opportunity. I invite youngsters to join this opportunity. The government passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and CAs will play a vital role in its implementation. Chartered Accountants can now make their career as Insolvency Practitioners, as a lot of companies will soon come to you!
CA should mean ‘Charter and Accuracy’; ‘Compliance and Authenticity.’ Friends, our country completes 75 years of independence in 2022. We have taken an oath of a new India in that year. You as an Institute, individual Chartered Accountants, and as Indians must take efforts and play your part in receiving the new India. Two years after this, ICAI celebrates 75 years. You should create your vision and take ICAI to new heights. Decide what you want to do to contribute to nation building. Can you not help in making our country black money and corruption free? Or will you prepare the accounts in a way to ensure that people pay less tax? Or will you say, I convinced my clients to pay tax and choose honesty? You decide!
You should keep a vision, and decide how many honest taxpayers will you create. You know the result of this effort. How will you, as a professional use technology? How will you cater to the demands of forensic accounting?
INDIAN FIRMS IN BIG 8
I have one more wish, which I know you have the potential to fulfill. I don’t see why you are lagging behind. You have the Big 4. We are nowhere in the Big 4 despite having the capability and intelligence. When the world is looking towards India, can you visualize changing the big 4 to big 8? A new set of big 4 emerging from the people of India, who are seated here right now? You should shine on the global platform with the same level of professionalism
In the end, I will give you the oldest and most respected Chanakya’s quote, which means that the time itself takes away the fruit of success. Arun Jaitley said that such an opportunity has never come earlier in the life of Hindustan. Similarly, such an opportunity has never arisen in your hands, but it has happened now, don’t let it slip away. I have come here to invite you to be a part of the growth of India.
I once again congratulate the institute, faculty, and CAs present here and thank everyone, including those who are watching us sitting in other parts of the country and globally. This 1 July 2017, let’s take a new path, a new direction, with new speed, new freshness and let’s come together and give the people of India a celebration of honesty. Thank you, friends!