POLITICS

How Much Cash Are Indian Ministers Going To Have To Line Up To Exchange?

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley leads the pack with an astonishing amount of cash in hand.

15/11/2016 3:44 PM IST | Updated 15/11/2016 5:27 PM IST
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File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Amit Shah, President of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and Arun Jaitley (Minister of Finance of India).

Sometime in the next month-and-a-half, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley—or more likely an authorised representative—is going to be lining up in a bank to make a pretty large deposit or exchanging a bunch of cash. Earlier this year, Jaitley, India's richest minister, declared that he and his wife had over ₹72 lakh cash in hand–most of it presumably in high-value notes.

Ministers are required to declare assets and liabilities annually. The 2015-16 declarations show that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had ₹90,000 in cash at the end of the last financial year. Like most Indians, the bulk of PM Modi's assets are in the form of land or buildings; his house in Gandhinagar is now worth more than ₹1 crore. The average urban Indian household's assets are worth ₹23 lakh (10 lakh for rural Indians) and 92% is in the form of land and buildings, the National Sample Survey Office's 2012-13 survey on household assets and liabilities shows. Financial assets make up less than 5% of the average urban Indian's assets and less than 2% of the average rural Indian's assets.

Not all ministers have declared their assets for 2015-16 (Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, for instance), and many declarations lack details including on cash (Statistics and Programme Implementation Minister Sadananda Gowda's and Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti's, for instance). Home Minister Rajnath Singh and his wife have over ₹1 lakh in cash of their over ₹3.4 crore assets. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and her husband will probably need to exchange a good part of the ₹13 lakh they jointly have in cash.

Design: Andrew Clarance

Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu has relatively little assets (worth ₹52 lakh) in his name, but add in his spouse and he has ₹12 crore in assets and ₹1.79 lakh in cash that will probably need exchanging soon. Textiles Minister Smriti Irani has ₹7.6 lakh in cash and ₹7.5 crore in assets with her husband.

The numbers put all ministers squarely in the top 10% of the country--most are probably in the top 1% of the country, but NSSO numbers aren't broken down smaller than deciles. The median urban Indian has assets of around ₹7 lakh, while the median rural Indian household's assets are worth around ₹4 lakh.

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