Wednesday, June 4, 2008

To the Finance Minister

Dear Finance Minister,

Yo! Long time no see.

I know you won't even be reading this. However, strangely that does not stop me from writing this. Even though I'm not technically working these days, I did for the past few years and my family does and pays a lot of taxes (despite my protests). So as my CA points out to me while doing my accounts that every financial year, the money I pay as tax is equivalent to the my first few months salary. So in a way, I do pay for your salary and your perks. Though of course, that's not your primary source of income.

Anyway, I don't want to discuss that in my letter.

Since you, along with the rest of your government grade yourself each year, I am reminded of those days when I was a kid when I used to grade my own homework. Incidentally, just like you, I came out with high marks. Cool, init?

However, this year I thought we'd do it a little differently and I had this crazy idea of your performance being reviewed just like any other employee by a "concerned" citizen. Since I am the only one who seemed to have time, I volunteer my services. Not a fan? I know. However, in the interest of fairness, please bear with me.

When you first took the oath of office in 2004, corporate India was gung-ho. After all, the man who presented the "Dream Budget" of 1997 was taking office again under a man who was partly responsible for ushering in India's libralisation. A Shaquille O Neal-Micheal Jordan dream team.

After all you were succeeding Yashwant "What's in an exchange rate?" Sinha and Jaswant "I should have been a voiceover artist" Singh. So everybody applauded when you were sworn in again. It was dawn of a new era.

Then just like what happens in Ekta Kapoor serials, you showed your true colors.

The taxpaying junta stood by in horror while you taxed the hell out of them. VAT, FBT, KBC, KLPD, every possible tax was thrown at them. But of course, what could the junta do? So it paid the tax. Like the good boys and girls they are.

In fact these boys and girls are as helpless as someone at a Sri Sri Ravi Shankar session. Not only do these hard earning boys and girls pay income tax, everything they buy is taxed too. Bottled Mineral water, mobile & land phones, Oil & Diesel, just a few things which are double taxed. Education cess, Development cess, Road cess, Bowel movement cess ..etc. the list is long.

Of course, Mr Minister, I have nothing against tax collection. However, what infuriates me is that all the tax that is collected is never spent fruitfully.

Yes, I know you do launch grandiose schemes in the name of a few dead people. However, though these schemes may really sound top-notch, their implementation is as fictional as Harry Potter.
In fact, these schemes are just like a Jimmy Shergill movie. You know it's a big flop the minute it's announced.

Pray tell me sir, what happens of the education cess? Billions of rupees are collected under this tax. But they are never spent. Most government run schools only exist on paper. Others are just existing for the teachers to siphon of enough money so as to be able to send their children to
real schools. By a one in a million chance if a child wants to learn in a school which exists, either the teacher is not there or he is sleeping soundly after devouring the free lunch which was actually meant for the students.

Now don't get me wrong. Of course you hear and read about one lone guy trying to teach a bunch of students the English alphabet. However, these people are few and far between.

I remember sir in the first year of your government's reign, there was a huge national disaster. The Tsunami. Now, with a single cess, you collected over Rs 5000 crores for the Tsunami victims. Now that may be shortchange for the Ambanis but for the affected villages, it was a large amount. And this does not even take into consideration the millions received in private aid or the money received by the PM's relief fund. What happened there? Most of those people are still living in the common areas like govt "schools" or makeshift shelters even four years after the tragedy happened. I actually feel physically sick to say that Vivek Oberoi has done more for those villages than the Government of India. Which in itself is not much.

Just like someone watching an Indian reality show on TV, the honest taxpayer suffers a lot already. People who actually pay tax are the only ones bullied by the tax department. There are millions of people out there who earn crores but never pay any tax. In fact the whole world know who they are.

Yes, India now has a burgeoning economy. India is the flavor of the season for the global financial community. Yes, we do have the highest mobile phone growth numbers in the world. However, all this has been achieved despite our government.

Yes the Indian dream is becoming the next big thing.

However, for millions of Indian children, having a full meal once before they die of malnutrition is the Indian dream.

For millions of our taxpayers having roads which are made of tar instead of dirt is a distant reality.

For millions of taxpayers, having continuous power supply during the hot summer months remains a myth.

For millions of Indians, being able to start their own enterprise without needing 47 permission slips is an impossibility.

Millions of Indians envisage a day when their city doesn't become like Noah's Ark when it drizzles heavily.

So until these dreams can come true, the impossible becomes possible, Mr Minister, you can take all your dream budgets and donate them to bhel-puri vendors to be used as plates because they aren't even worth the paper they are printed on.

And needless to say sir, in my opinion your report card should say "F".

However, what the F stands for is open to interpretation.

Have a good one,

A "concerned" citizen


Moo said...

The depths of knowledge and the layers of understanding beneath all that apparent frivolity and fun has amazed me, Overrated. Not to mention the facts crammed in your head.

Unfortunately, the common taxpayer can do nothing except write blogs or "letters to the editor". Oh, and pay taxes, of course. P Chimdumbumbum is really the answer to India's money problems.

A beautiful, BEAUTIFUL article. Very insightful, and extremely well-written. :)

Firefoxcub said...

this is the first time im going to be paying taxes. I'm scared. And I don't even have a proper tarred road that runs to my house. Gah.

moonstruckmoth said...

Ran into ur blog while I was at firefoxcub's...
Thank u firefoxcub! ;-)
Read a few of ur posts, n they're mighty entertaining...n also scathing I might add...which is all very fair coz every year they lop off a huge part of our income n nobody knows where it goes...all one sees for it r things like digging n re-digging of roads...I'll stifle my urge to launch into a harangue here...

Great post tho'!

PS: M adding u to my blogroll...hope it wont be an issue...

Over Rated said...

moo:Thank you for your wonderful words Moo. I am sure I'm not deserving of them. I sometimes do surprise myself when I find that somewhere deep down I do have a passion for this country of ours and a want for things to improve. I know the word "change" gets thrown around a lot, but it's one thing we need. One of the reasons the common taxpayer suffers is because he has given up on the government. He does not make the effort to go out and vote. For most people, election day is just another meaningless day off from work. Until that does not change, this country will not change.

*Feels like Obama* :)

ffc: ... I guess a big part of Bangalore is not ready for prime time?

moonstruckmoth: Thanks for such undeserved praise. :) .....

I remember a story from my childhood when a king in ancient India sent 12 big boxes of treasures to be distributed among his subjects. By the time it reached the public after being passed from his ministers to his government "officers" , only a single gold coin was left. That's what still happens in our country. And don't worry, long comments are always welcome on this blog. We encourage people to speak their mind here. :) ...

And thanks for adding me to your blogroll.