It was on March 14 that 108 eminent economists and social scientists from the academic profession issued a statement questioning the credibility of Modi government’s statistics “for being influenced and indeed even controlled by political consideration” and called for restoration of “institutional independence” and integrity to the statistical organisations. As in the case of other autonomous institutions, the Modi regime is alleged to have made systematic political interference in India’s statistical machinery such as CSO and NSSO “to suppress uncomfortable data” leading to the recent resignation of two members of the National Statistical Commission itself.
Just four days after this statement by economists, that is, on March 18, 131 accountants and auditors have come out with a counter statement calling former’s apprehensions as “bogus” and “choreographed”. They asked: “Now when India has become the Fastest Growing Economy in the world they are worried about the credibility of data. Is it their intention to scare Foreign Investors by creating doubts on the credibility of Data?” The signatories had also gone on putting things in the standard corporate-saffron format as if it was BJP’s election manifesto eulogising GST, Demonetisation, Aadhaar, Jan Dhan Accounts, tremendous increase in market capitalisation, India becoming the fastest growing economy …, etc., and concludes: “We appeal to the professionals around the world to come together to present the true picture of India and counter baseless allegations with political motivations.”
Of course, this is not the context to expose these claims of accountants as the vast majority of the people in India have not at all experienced any of them in their real life. Demonetisation was the biggest corporate attack that sucked out the life-blood of the people on the one hand, and whitened all the black money with the most corrupt corporate elite on the other. GST transferred economic power to corporate capitalists after destroying the constitutional foundations of federalism. Peasant suicides became unprecedented during the five year period. India became the most corrupt country in Asia. Even the logo of the much trumpeted “Make in India” was designed by a foreign company, namely, Weiden+ Kennedy and the unhindered entry of foreign capital to the economy has led to an unparalleled joblessness. India’s ranking in Global Hunger Index has deteriorated by 37 percent reaching 100 among 119 countries, much below that of neighbouring countries. The top one percent of the super-rich holding around 52 percent of country’s total wealth and the total wealth of the top 9 billionaires being equal to that of the bottom 50 percent of the population, India has become one of the most unequal countries in the world. As a result of Modi’s policies, while the wealth of these billionaires swelled by Rs. 2200 crore a day, the total wealth of 119 Indian billionaires crossed Rs. 28 lakh crore in 2018! Thus goes the list.
However, while leading accountants and auditors are driven to quick defence of the corporate-saffron regime, at a global level, the audit& accounts profession, on account of its proximity to corporatisation and financialisation, is in acute crisis today. Leading audit firms such as KPMG, Deloitte, PwC, and EY and the professionals associated with them are already blacklisted by several countries on account of their unholy alliance with corporate CEOs. In the mad rush for ensuring fabulous profits for corporate capital, leading auditing and accounting firms work hand in glove with corporate thugs leading to financial swindles, artificial fixing of asset prices and account manipulations for shoring up corporate profits. Auditing and accounting scandals associated with the collapse of Lehman Brothers are a much discussed topic. What are being exposed through the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers including the links between audit firms and tax havens whose undercurrents are manifested in India too are intimately connected with account manipulation under neo-liberal crony capitalism.
This being the situation, that is, at a time when the credibility of the accounting and auditing profession on account of its unholy nexus with corporate capital is at low ebb, the aforesaid position of the economists seems credible as against the counter-statement that came in the garb of chartered accountants.
PJ James n