Know Your Governance: Here’s All You Need To Know About Electoral Bonds- Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part series based on HuffPost India’s investigation on the electoral bonds scheme. Read the second part here.

Elections in India are like a big fat Indian wedding with a majority of political parties extravagantly spending crores of rupees for their respective candidates to swing votes in their favour to form a government by every possible means. These crores of rupees spent by political parties are received by various methods of donations. One such novel approach is the Electoral Bond scheme. This scheme was broached with euphoria in 2017-18 Union Budget Speech by the then Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley. It was claimed that it is a step to promote transparency and accountability in political funding.

In 2018-19, BJP received donations through electoral bonds worth Rs 1450.89 crore, Congress received Rs 383.26 crore, and TMC Rs 97.28 crore.

Electoral Bonds are an interest-free instrument which is like a promissory note that can be bought by any Indian citizen or company incorporated in India from selected branches of State Bank of India (SBI) within a fixed period time which then can be donated to any eligible political party keeping the identity of the donor a secret.

Bonds worth more than Rs. six thousand crores have been sold so far in 12 tranches. 95% of the money gathered by the first tranche of these bonds have gone to the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as per the Association for Democratic Reforms. In 2018-19, BJP received donations through electoral bonds worth Rs 1450.89 crore, Congress received Rs 383.26 crore, and TMC Rs 97.28 crore.

In November 2019, investigative journalist Nitin Sethi did an exclusively audacious series named Paisa Politics for Huffington Post India in which some alarming revelations were made. These revelations were based on the documents obtained by transparency activist Commodore Lokesh Batra (Retr) under the Right To Information Act. The series revealed that to legalize the scheme of electoral bonds, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Act needed to be amended, and hence RBI had to be brought on board first.

When these amendments were sent to the RBI, it responded that electoral bonds and amendments to the RBI Act would set a ‘bad precedent’ by encouraging money laundering and undermining faith in India banknotes, and would erode a core principle of central banking legislation. Electoral bonds, the RBI said, would effectively be a type of “bearer bond” — a notoriously opaque financial instrument that carries no trace of its ownership. 

“Bearer instruments have the potential to become the currency and, if issued in sizeable quantities, can undermine faith in banknotes issued by RBI,” the bank wrote. “The bonds are bearer bonds and are transferable by delivery. Hence who finally and contributes the bond to the political party will not be known.”

However, RBI’s concerns were ignored with a flaccid argument that the RBI has not understood the proposed mechanism, and its advice come late at a time when Finance Bill was printed, despite the RBI responding on the first working day after it was asked for comment. With this reply, the scheme of Electoral Bonds was legalized using the government’s brute majority in Lok Sabha and bypassing Rajya Sabha, which can only comment and cannot amend it as it was a part of Money Bill. With this scheme and amendments in RBI Act now Indian companies, including shell companies which have no business but to channel money to political parties, individuals as well as other legal entities, such as trusts, can now anonymously buy unlimited amounts of electoral bonds and quietly hand them over to a political party of their choice to encash. Foreign companies can also now route money to Indian political parties, which was not possible earlier.

RBI was not alone objecting to such a contentious scheme, Election Commission (EC) also raised its concerns warning that electoral bonds would help political parties hide illegal donations from foreign sources and requested a rollback. To address this resistance, EC was told that companies would make accounting entries in their books when buying electoral bonds, which would ensure transparency. However, this argument turns out to be a lie as companies are not required to detail to whom they donated the bonds in balance sheets. EC was never satisfied with the government’s arguments and keep on insisting on a rollback of this scheme. These objections became public in March 2019 in an affidavit submitted by EC to the Supreme Court.

The government also pretended to be consulting with other political parties, where Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) demanded more information before any comment because of the complicated nature of this scheme, CPI was completely against this scheme. Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of BJP, nonetheless supported the plan with some recommendations which were utterly ignored.

Such a strident opposition from almost every sphere should have made the government take a pause, rethink or at least address the concerns effectively. But the government seems to have already taken the decision which they are in no disposition to take back.

The next part of this series will discuss how the government broke its own rules, bypassed Rajya Sabha, lie in the name of donors and secrecy and who pays for implementing this scheme in practice. You can read the next part here.

 All the documents related to this series can be accessed here.

Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below