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THESE TAXING TIMES

Retroactive taxation is one of the single most regressive policy proclamations in recent times. It is symptomatic of a government cornered by its own mess and faulty policies. It also smacks of an arrogance that comes from aged leaders becoming used to an oppressive State machinery reminiscent of the one during the days of the Soviet command economy that was able to throttle democratic norms and processes of inclusive growth in the belief that the State alone knows what is best and, thus, has the mandate to do what it pleases. This policy, along with announcements that an income tax officer can arrest a citizen without any judicial recourse and that a customs officer can incarcerate an individual for possessing products beyond some absurd limit, is draconian and is untenable in a civilized court of law.

Such dictatorial tools only prove that the government has failed to deliver dignified and clean governance, is near bankrupt because of a corrupt administration, and has zero accountability to the people of India. Therefore, it is bringing down the lathi on its own people who generate wealth in a nation exploited by its ruling class that lives off the fat of the land. The example set at the top filters down to the middle class that has, unfortunately, begun to emulate the ruling class, giving rise to a lawlessness that has begun to envelop modern India. Arbitrary policies and untenable, authoritarian initiatives have influenced the resurrection of undemocratic institutions like khap panchayats. There are endless horrors being inflicted upon this land. They are taking place because the government appears to have no position on anything that has to do with the Indian people and their tribulations.

Many problems

Female infanticide is a crime that afflicts many states in India. The government should use its ‘draconian’ arm to end that crime rather than attack ordinary citizens with such measures as an excise on stree dhan, investing corrupt officials in the income tax department with illegal powers, and so on. The government needs to take severe action against those who are indulging in such crimes. Ironically, these unscrupulous elements are protected as a result of faulty governance and weak action.

Will this government bring in a law to tax all taxpayers at a higher level retroactively? The prime minister is a sound economist. Does he support such fiscal policy initiatives in this day and age? Why is he permitting the finance ministry to operate in such an arbitrary manner? Is it because India has been crippled financially on account of irregularities? Have oil subsidies killed us off? Honest answers will help us understand how tenuous the situation is. They will reveal the inefficiency in our public sector financial institutions. They will also prove that dictatorial policies have been imposed on virtually every sector.

The scams that plague us and shame us as a people — diminishing our pride and self-confidence — are all a result of unacceptable, arbitrary and undemocratic policies and regulations. Political and administrative governance has successfully created infinite pools of corruption in every professional sphere. Then there are the archaic, colonial and command economy laws that govern India.

The free-for-all that characterizes governance has gone on for far too long. Most people are embarrassed and ashamed by it. The land of Mahatma Gandhi and of our founding fathers is not merely going through growth pains but is also being exploited by its elected representatives. India’s economy continues to grow despite this untenable reality because of its intrinsic entrepreneurship and its ability to survive the worst. Will its resilience snap soon?