New Delhi 12 Apr 2018
In a major exposé, an investigation by The Quint revealed that electoral bonds have hidden alphanumeric numbers printed on them to track down the link between donors and political parties.
This apparent outmaneuvering by the government poses a critical question – in the name of more ‘transparency’ in political funding, following the introduction of electoral bonds, are we being subjected to an unprecedented secret surveillance?
Electoral bonds were promised to be anonymous as no one other than the donor themselves is supposed to know which political party they are contributing to.
Here is Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assurance that political donations via electoral bonds will remain anonymous.
Following the purchase of two electoral bonds worth Rs 1,000 each, The Quint got forensic tests done to find out whether these bonds carry any hidden letters or numbers. The first bond was purchased on 5 April and the second one on 9 April. Both were purchased at State Bank of India branches designated to issue electoral bonds.
The test was conducted at one of the most reputed forensic labs in the country. The lab report revealed the presence of unique alphanumeric numbers on both bonds.
Naturally, this begs some questions of the government, and of the State Bank of India, which issues the electoral bonds. Is someone playing Big Brother here?
Our investigation stands in stark contrast to the Union Finance Minister’s views on electoral bonds. Arun Jaitley had earlier said“how much each donor has distributed to a political party would be known only to the donor”.
Electoral bonds were introduced by the government as a bearer instrument in the nature of a promissory note to make donations through a banking channel to political parties by individuals and corporates. The government said that electoral bonds would curb “the conventional practice of funding the political system in cash and undertake these expenditures in cash”.
Electoral bonds are sold every quarter for the first 10 days of the month. They can be procured from designated branches of the State Bank of India alone.
The Quint had showed in an earlier report that an electoral bond does not carry any serial number that can be seen with the naked eye. The purchaser of the bond, therefore, is misled into believing that he/she cannot be tracked as no number or name is written on the bond apart from the date of issuance.
The Quint has written to the Ministry of Finance seeking a reply as to why a hidden number exists on the electoral bond. This copy will be updated if and when we receive a response. ( The Quint )