Billionaire businessperson Kiran Mazumdar Shaw on Saturday told The Telegraph that a government official called her recently and asked her not to speak about matters like harassment by income tax officers. “He just said that ‘please don’t make such statements,” she told the daily. “Even Mohandas Pai should not. I am telling you as a friend’.”
Pai, a former Infosys director, had told news website The Quint that Shaw, who runs Biocon, had received such a call. Tax harassment incidents are being highlighted following the death of Cafe Coffee Day owner VG Siddhartha. Before his body was found, Siddhartha had written in a letter to his company’s board of directors that a former director general of income tax was harassing him.
Shaw said that she saw the call by the government official both as an advice and a warning. “Personally, I’ve never had any problems with the tax department,” she added. “Nobody is muzzling anyone. Only you can decide on whether you want to speak out. If you are paying your taxes, why should you worry? Why is the corporate world so silent?”
In a tweet, Shaw said: “If Indian Inc remains silent it is reflective of a form of crony capitalism!”
Pai told The Telegraph that a lot of businesspersons get such calls. He claimed that “tax terrorism” began when the United Progressive Alliance government was in power, but the National Democratic Alliance government has failed to end. Pai is a self-professed admirer of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s work.
“Our laws need to change, as income tax officers now have the power to arrest anyone,” Pai said. “That kind of power leads to harassment.”
He said both UPA-2 and former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley gave the tax department such freedom. “This is the result of our politicians not talking to businessmen and going only by the view of officials,” Pai alleged.
Pai said the business environment at present is dull as consumption demand has fallen. “They [the financial institutions] are now withdrawing loans such as supply chain financing which is usually for 90 to 100 days and are asking businesses to repay the loans,” he said. “Money is going back to coffers. That means no new money is coming and liquidity is hurt. So you are hurt twice.”
The former Infosys chief said the UPA government was the only one which tried to improve investor confidence. “When India was declared ‘Fragile Five’ [among five fragile economies], UPA II came up with some measures which worked,” he said. He said Modi and other ministers need to meet businessmen every quarter to increase their confidence.