Indians angry at officials who own cash-counting machines

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 3:01am

They are a standard accessory for casinos, drug lords and illegal bookmakers. But why would relatively low-paid Indian officials have any need for cash-counting machines?

Last month, income tax officials in the southern state of Karnataka who raided the house of politician KS Eshwarappa found gold, silver and cash stashed everywhere. But what took them aback was the cash counter.

When they asked why a private citizen might need such a machine in his home, the Indian Express newspaper reported Eshwarappa as saying: "The children in the house use it as a toy."

Cash counters have become a new focal point for anger at rampant corruption in India.

Last year, critics of the powerful leader Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh accused her of having several counting machines. Other politicians have been found with machines in their cars.

One manufacturer of counting machines in Chennai, south India, refused to reveal how many machines are sold to private citizens a month, beyond saying, "it's a good business".

Indians are used to corrupt officials. In 2011, a civil servant couple in central India were revealed to own 25 flats and 162 hectares of land.

Every cupboard in their house was stuffed with cash, including the spice jars, mattresses, pillows and washing machines.

Income tax officials who raided the house had to commander, yes, a counting machine.

"Indians are used to corruption. They are also aware that these days we're talking about many billions of rupees, not millions. But even so, to think that these people need to have machines at home to count cash is mind-boggling," said political analyst Satish Jacob.

"This is alarming. The government should ban the sale of these machines except to legitimate buyers such as banks or hotels," said Akash Ahluwalia, an anti-corruption activist in New Delhi.