Times of India
New Delhi

NEW DELHI: Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) has faulted the format for declaration of assets adopted by the government, saying it did not provide a correct indicator of ministers' wealth and defeated the exercise towards transparency. 

The NGO said that while certain ministers have declared the value of assets on prevailing rates, others have not, leading to discrepancies. 

ADR's statement last week showing a jump in the assets of NDA ministers after they took office has been questioned. 

For instance, ADR claimed that railway minister Sadananda Gowda's wealth had increased by 106% (over Rs 10.46 crore) and assets worth Rs 10 crore had been acquired after he took charge. However, Gowda pointed out that the properties were bought earlier with a loan worth Rs 8 crore from Federal Bank and Rs 2 crore had been paid as advance rental from the owner to whom he had rented out the premises. 

He said that though the loan was passed in November last year, the property was transferred to him only after the Lok Sabha elections. "During filing of nomination, the property was not with me and I got it in my name only after the elections in a transparent manner within the limits of the law," he said. Gowda said by the end of June, he had submitted all these details to the PMO to ensure transparency. 

Similarly, ADR said coal and power minister Piyush Goyal's assets had increased from Rs 30.34 crore in 2010 (according to the affidavit submitted to Rajya Sabha) to Rs 94.66 crore. Apart from the fact that the increase happened over a period of four years, sources close to Goyal said the value went up in line with the increase in market rate of the property. They also rubbished ADR's estimate of increase in the value of his assets in percentage terms. 

Sources also said Goyal, who is a chartered accountant, has a regular source of income for which he pays tax and that can be verified from the returns he has filed each year. 

In case of Thavarchand Gehlot, another Union minister, the increase in value of assets happened over a period of four years. 

ADR said some ministers, including Jitendra Singh, V K Singh, Ananth Kumar and Sripad Naik, had not given the value of moveable assets to the PMO while Harsh Vardhan, Venkaiah Naidu and Sushma Swaraj had not given the value of their immoveable assets. 

There is also a feeling among political circles that schemes where estimates are valued on the basis of declarations alone could be weighted against those who file income tax returns and have sources of income which cannot be concealed. As against this, those with farm incomes who are not obliged to pay tax enjoy flexibility in giving the value of their assets.

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