Tax Me Not

Friday, 13 December 2019

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Tax Me Not

Debashish Goswami | May 04, 2019 16:26 hrs


Politics doesn’t concern middle-class India – though we pay for it. 

You, dear reader and I, belong to that massive minority which sustains democratic aspirations of India and benefits not from that democracy. Our democratic structure runs on our taxes and yet gives benefits to the corporate entities/businesses/banks on the higher rungs and the masses that fall below the so-called “middle-class” lines and are part of the voting blocs. You and I, the educated minority don’t really matter. And yet the country runs on taxes paid by us, revenue generated by us, systems sustained by us for very little in return or even recognition. The workhorse of modern India and the actual engine of its growth is its middle-class - hard-working, upwardly mobile, self-aware of these facts and yet unattended and beaten down. 


As per official figures, our growth rate is 6.6% which is weak in itself, considering our performance over the last 15 years. The economy is on a downward spiral and barely performing. Our core sectoral growth as per February 2019 is 2.1% and the IIP (Index of Industrial Production) is 0.1%, export growth is zero (rare status since 1991) and our savings and investment rates have dipped below 30% for the first time since 2003. Agriculture as a sector is burning out and the employment figures are appalling. India is driven by its aspirational middle-class segment, regardless of boundaries of religion or community. The national growth rate is essentially contributed by these aspirational successive generations of the same middle class and is fuelled massively by rapid banking strides by institutions commercial and non-commercial. The country grows whether political will mandates or not, by this immense growth engine but this engine is faltering and needs support. 


Analysing our growth story, in terms of basic accounting, we arrive at the answer of growing inequality. Growth is happening but concentrated at the top, while the rest of the society is static. The bulk of the working class such as farmers, small businesses and traders across smaller towns and cities are barely managing, while the top metropolises generate high growth rates and show the “India Shining” story. Policy errors like demonetization (November 2016) have contributed negatively to the hinterlands of “Bharat” while leaving the rich “India” virtually unaffected. Countries which have done similar “demonetizations” since 1982 like North Korea, Venezuela, Myanmar, Iraq, Russia, Ghana, Brazil and Cyprus, have suffered similar disastrous consequences affecting the middle class most, and essentially spasming the economic growth engines. 


Observing the narratives pushed out from the ivory towers of New Delhi - especially the ministry offices of the CGO complex or North Block - or even from the commercial hubs of Mumbai which take decisions based on pure numbers and mandate policy based on those numbers is a fallacy propagated in India for ages. The inability to know the real story on the ground is contributory to many of the policy errors committed by the current and preceding governments. And yet, the middle-class across the very same ignored hinterlands, is urged to vote, to pay taxes and levies on each and every transaction but on a point-to-point benefit ratio, lose out to the teeming masses that get toilets, gas connections and much more. They do not get subsidy deals, low-interest loans or economic benefits aside from a paltry few scraps in each budget. The roads, drains or even communal public utilities which we pay taxes for barely exist, public services are a joke in most of the Smart Cities, leave aside the un-Smart Cities. And our taxes go to benefit who exactly? 
So how do we answer this growing inequality? As stated before, politics shouldn’t concern the Indian middle-class, but perhaps we should stop paying for it. The state exists for us and not the other way around. 


We who pay for this existence should reconsider - Pressing the NOTA button will not really matter. Not paying taxes collectively might.

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