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Stinting on your dues?

Sidin Vadakut (Life) / 12 January 2013

THINGS ARE not hunky dory in India right now. In fact few annusses have been as horribilis for India as 2012. And to bottom it all off there was the case of a brutal gang rape in New Delhi.

Ostensibly the outrage has been both immediate and fierce. (Though God only knows if it is adequate. Sometimes talking about public opinion and legislative reform in India is like invoking that old scenario of the unstoppable force pushing against the immovable object.)

A lot of very vocal people on the Internet want the culprits, all in custody, to be summarily executed if not chemically castrated.

More restrained voices have asked for the setting up of fast-track courts to handle rape cases. The courts and staff, of course, will have to be set up and paid using government funds.

But then we were informed on Wednesday, by finance minister P. Chidambaram, that only 2.89 per cent of all Indians file income tax returns. Or approximately 35 million people. Further, he revealed that only about 1.5 million admitted in their tax returns to incomes of Rs. 1 million or more. Which, he said, “is not realistic”. This is despite the fact that according to the government’s own statistics approximately 30 per cent of all employed Indians — there are approximately half a billion of them —work in sectors such as manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail, and finance.

Others want not just fast-track courts but a wholesale overhaul of the judicial system. Nobody knows for sure, and this number seems to keep expanding every time you look as if it is a retired football player, but there are maybe as many as 32 million cases of all shapes and sizes pending in India’s court systems. The simple solution would be a hire a new army of magistrates, train them and rebuild a new national court network.

Oh but who will pay for all this. Only 3 per cent of all citizens pay taxes.

Court overhaul is a good idea, some interject, but shouldn’t we be worried about our police force first. After all the last serious piece of police reforms to be enacted nationally was sometime in the 19th century. Surely it is time to hire a strapping new national batch of police officers, well paid an incorruptible, who will bring sweeping change to the law and order scene.

Paying for this shouldn’t be problem. Oh wait. Only 3 per cent pay any tax. I forget.

Still another set of experts suggest that law and order reform strikes at the symptom and not the cause. Instead of catching criminals we should intervene socially so as to prevent them from becoming criminals at all. This means getting them into schools and colleges, or making them play sports or getting them into productive jobs.

And surely it shouldn’t be that hard to build the schools, roads, stadia or attracting the companies needed to make this happen? After all this is easily done with few crores of rip… damn. I forgot. Nobody pays any tax.

Don’t waste time on these reforms, scream the final faction. This cabal wants to make our cities safer. Better street lights.  Better buses. CCTV cameras. Emergency response systems.

Simple enough. After all, many other countries in the world have these services and gadgets. Just a matter of copying those ideas and implementing them from Delhi to Dindigul. Surely this is a meaningful expenditure of…


There has to be a way for a country with laughable tax compliance to spend on things like law and order, and school and roads. This is so unfair.

Sidin Vadukut is the Foreign Correspondent of Mint and Editor of Mint Indulge



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