Gold Smuggling
Ever since Union government has raised import-duty on gold now to ten-percent, gold-smuggling has become quite profitable. Investment in smuggled gold is through unaccounted money either in form of solid gold or as jewellery. Sincere steps should be taken to transform currency-circulation in banking transactions so that surplus currency may be ordinary 'paper' for all practical purposes. India should follow sensible advanced countries by discontinuing circulation of higher-denomination notes of rupees five hundred and above because such currency is used as black money to buy gold. All sale-purchases exceeding say Rs 20000, even though payment may be made in parts, must be through banks. In case of cash-payments, currency-tax @ 30-percent may be imposed. All expenses exceeding Rs 1000 must be allowed when made through cheques/drafts. Payments of essential services like water, telephone, electricity and municipal taxes for bills exceeding Rs 1000 must be by cheques/drafts only. Drafts/ Pay-Orders/ Traveller-cheques must carry names and address/ account-numbers of purchasers with reduced validity-period of say 45 days to check their misuse as 'benami' drafts for carriers of black money. Bulk sale of accounted gold is done in unaccounted money by drawing wholesale invoices in amounts below rupees twenty thousand, which can be effectively checked by drastic cut in currency-circulation.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) should take some concrete steps to keep gold-prices in control by banning forward trading of the yellow metal. Since India is biggest consumer of gold, its demand in India also determines rise and fall of international prices of gold. It was wrong that Indian government succumbed to political and other pressures when Indian Finance Minister had to take proposal to impose excise-duty on jewellery from the Union Budget for 2012-13 which could effectively check use of black money in purchase of jewellery. Idea of re-introducing maximum 14-carrot gold for jewellery can be re-introduced with 10-percent excise-duty on jewellery.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi

Two Accidents
Recently the world has been badly shaken by two extremely tragic accidents. Hundreds of innocent lives have been lost in each one of these accidents. Both these accidents are likely to have been caused by glaring negligence and corruption.

One big accident took place in North Korea where the collapse of an apartment building led to the death of entire families. Although the exact number of people who died has not been declared officially, it has been admitted that people have died in hundreds.

On May 13 in the town of Soma in Turkey, a fire followed by accumulation of carbon monoxide in a mine led to a terrible tragedy which has triggered widespread protests. Some opposition leaders of coal mining areas have said that they have been greatly distressed as there are frequent accidents and they have to go to console family members of accident victims. They have alleged that accidents have increased in privately operated mines due to the strong pressures to maximise profits and production ignoring threats to safety. As a result mines continue to work in dangerous conditions leading to frequent accidents.

The anger of the people over the accident increased due to insensitive handling of the issue by Prime Minister Erdogan and his aides.

This was certainly not an isolated incident as several coal accidents have occurred due to negligence. The Coalbrook colliery collapse resulting in the death of 437 underground miners was one such accident. In India unscientific coal mining over several decades by private miners (before nationalisation) led to large-scale land subsidence and underground fires creating conducive conditions for accidents. One possibility was the entry of flood water in depressed areas. The Chasnala tragedy which claimed 376 lives was caused in this way. Even now huge areas face a serious threat of collapse in parts of Asansol, Raniganj and elsewhere. Important safety considerations have been ignored. Some of the biggest coal mining accidents have been reported from China under pressures of rapidly increasing production.

In Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, a 23-storey apartment building collapsed. The official news agency of N Korea the KCNA said in a statement, "The construction of the apartment houses was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner."

This tragedy should serve as a warning as careless construction by many builders have been frequently reported in India, resulting in tragedies in several cities from time to time.
Bharat Dogra, New Delhi

Vol. 47, No. 6, Aug 17 - 23, 2014