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UK Government 'Closely Monitoring' I-T Survey on BBC's India Offices: Report

The news agency PTI said that while there has been no official statement from the UK government on the "survey", sources said they are “closely monitoring" the situation.

New Delhi: The UK government is “closely monitoring” the situation following the Indian income tax department’s “surveys” at the BBC offices in India on Tuesday, February 14, according to reports.

The news agency PTI said that while there has been no official statement from the UK government on the “survey”, sources said they are “closely monitoring” the situation. The Indian I-T department is conducting the survey operations at the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai as part of an investigation into alleged tax evasion.

Reacting to the Indian IT department’s action, the British public broadcaster said that it was “fully cooperating” with the authorities and hoped that the situation will be resolved “as soon as possible”.

In New Delhi, officials said the survey was being carried out to investigate issues related to international taxation and transfer pricing of BBC subsidiary companies, and alleged that the BBC had been served with notices in the past but was “defiant and non-compliant” and had significantly diverted its profits.

Press bodies in India have condemned the raid, saying the government is harassing press organisations that are critical of government policies. The action comes about a month after the BBC aired its two-part documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The first reported on a UK government inquiry which held him “directly responsible” for the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat.

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PTI said that there was “shock in the UK” as news of the survey unfolded early on Tuesday morning. There was a broad consensus that the action was linked to the BBC documentary, which was banned in India by the government.

“Everyone’s shocked and no one is fooled that today’s tax survey, as it’s being called, is a retaliation to the recent BBC documentary The Modi Question,” said Mukulika Banerjee, a leading author and academic at the London School of Economics (LSE).

“The BBC is an independent public broadcaster so if it puts out a documentary, it is not acting at the behest of the British government. In fact, BBC journalists routinely grill the British PM and all elected officials holding them accountable for their actions. The word ‘independent’ means just that,” she said, according to PTI.

“Finally, the Indian government has appointed India as the ‘Mother of Democracy’ during its year of the G20 Presidency and plastered posters across every inch of the country proclaiming that. It should know then that one of the basic principles of being a democracy is to recognise that press freedom is an essential central pillar of a functioning democracy. They really need to understand that this is what press freedom looks like. And stop its shameful harassment of the BBC in Delhi and Mumbai,” she added.

The South Asia Solidarity Group, a human rights organisation based in the UK, dubbed it a “blatantly vindictive move”.

“In the wake of the government’s ban on sharing extracts or screening the documentary, this raid makes it clear that the Modi government will attack all those who criticise Narendra Modi, the BJP and those close to them,” said Mukti Shah, spokesperson for the group, according to PTI.