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Posts Tagged ‘Buta Singh

Indira Gandhi and the Congress lost the elections held after the Emergency. The Congress split on January 1, 1978; the faction led by Indira Gandhi was recognised by the Election Commission as Congress (I). The ‘Cow and Calf’ symbol of the Congress was frozen and the Congress (I) was allotted the symbol of ‘Hand’. There are two versions of how the Congress (I) opted for the ‘Hand’ symbol.

In his autobiographical political memoir called ‘The Chinar Leaves’, M L Fotedar says that after the formation of the Congress (I), Indiraji had gone to meet Sathya Sai Baba to seek his blessings. Sai Baba raised his hand and said, ‘My blessings are always with you.’ When the Election Commission offered the new symbol to Congress (I), the choice was between a hand and an elephant. Indiraji had the image of Sai Baba’s hand raised in blessing on her mind and so opted for it.

Rasheed Kidwai, however, writes in his book ’24 Akbar Road’, apparently on the basis of his interview with Buta Singh, that ‘Indira was out in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, with P V Narasimha Rao when Buta was asked by the Election Commission to pick up an election symbol; the choices were an elephant, a bicycle and an open palm. Buta was not sure which symbol he should choose, so he booked a trunk call to seek Indira’s approval. The line was not very clear, or, perhaps, Buta’s Hindi pronunciation was so thick that Indira kept hearing haathi (elephant) instead of haath (hand). She kept saying no to it even as Buta kept trying to explain that it was not the elephant, but the open palm symbol that he was advising her to pick. The comedy of errors continued till an exasperated Indira handed the telephone over to Rao. In a matter of seconds, Rao, master of more than a dozen Indian and foreign languages, understood what Buta was trying to convey.’

Between the two, Fotedar’s version appears more credible. For one thing, Buta Singh was not high enough in the party hierarchy at the time. He was a cheer-leader of Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency. After the post-Emergency split in the Congress, the Sanjay brigade had noisily supported Indira Gandhi and many of the Sanjay Gandhi supporters were suitably adjusted in the newly formed Congress (I). Buta Singh was appointed one of the AICC general secretaries.

Secondly, Indira Gandhi was never known to take important decisions in this casual manner. She would consult the people around her but once she had made up her mind, she would take the decision and remain firm on it. Besides, she has always been a superstitious woman and had become more so after the Congress debacle in the post-Emergency period. That she should have on her mind Sathya Sai Baba’s ‘hand raised in blessing’ at the time of deciding her party’s election symbol sounds plausible.

The Congress (I) fought its first election under the new symbol for the Delhi Municipal Corporation and won.                      

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A friend, who is a teller in a nationalised bank, once gave me two 50-rupee currency notes and said that one of them was a counterfeit. I could not distinguish. He then explained to me the finer points of the genuine note. He said one of the clients had passed it on to him in a bundle of notes and he had failed to detect it in the rush. It was only later that he had descried it.
What would he do now? Tear it off and replace the amount from his own pocket (which he had already done). “When a customer passes on a counterfeit currency note and does not appear from the look on his face that he is doing it knowingly or deliberately, we quietly ask the customer to change the note and the matter ends there”. The bank personnel, he said, normally did not like reporting the matter to the police, so long as they could help it, because of the cumbersome procedures that it entailed. Even the management frowned upon those suggesting a police case.
That is how fake currency notes get into circulation through the banks, with or without the knowledge/connivance of the bank officials — and are sometimes found even among the notes ejected by the ATM machines. That, though, is an insignificant percentage of the total number of fake notes in circulation. Those involved in the fake currency rackets believe in circulating these notes in the open market and are occasionally arrested by the police. The Bhopal police have arrested six minor gangs, each carrying fake currency notes worth a few lakh of rupees, in the past five years. According to the figures released by the Reserve Bank of India, the value of fake currency notes seized during the last financial year was 183.1 per cent more than that of the notes seized during 2007-8.
The Reserve Bank does not say about the value of the fake currency notes now in circulation in India. According to a newspaper report, however, the CBI estimates that fake currency notes valued at Rs 1, 69,000 crore were in circulation in India by mid-2008. This surely is not a small amount.
The same newspaper report quotes CBI director Ashwani Kumar to say that the “leak” of an ultra-secret 2005 template for making Indian currency notes was behind the near-perfect counterfeit notes. By template or design the CBI director meant details of what went into making an Indian currency note — specially of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denominations — the type of paper, the ink and the silvery bar running down the note on one side.
This admission by the CBI director gives little credit to the country’s premier investigative agency. Even with the leak of the design to a neighbouring country, as he suspects, the printing and then clandestinely bringing of such a large number of notes to India could not have been the work of weeks or months; it must be going on for years. What has the CBI been doing all this time?
What happens to the fake currency notes that are seized? One thought that these were destroyed. However, the circumstances surrounding the trap and arrest of Buta Singh’s son allegedly for accepting a bribe of Rs one crore suggested otherwise. According to the reports based on the briefings by the investigating agency, CBI could not immediately collect genuine currency notes worth Rs one crore (as a bait for Buta Singh’s son); so the amount was made up with fake currency notes worth over Rs 98 lakh and only a little over Rs one lakh in genuine currency notes. One wonders why the seized fake currency notes are not destroyed, by making a suitable amendment in the law if the present statute does not permit it.
The Buta son’s trap leads to another aspect of the use of fake currency notes. Section 489-B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) provides for imprisonment for ten years and also fine to whoever “traffics in or uses as genuine, any forged or counterfeit currency note or bank note, knowing or having reason to believe the same to be forged or counterfeit”.
The members of the CBI team, who trapped Buta Singh’s son, did try to pass on counterfeit currency-notes as genuine currency-notes knowing full well that these were forged and should, thus, attract the provision of Section 489-B IPC, along with the CBI director who was supposed to have approved the plan. The IPC does not permit the traffic in forged currency-notes for laying a trap or for any other purpose.


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“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac.

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