The state is, because the taxpayer is

Mar 03, 2014, 07:57 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

A mediocre household, while running a home, prudently thinks about the monthly income and the expenses. It takes every care if the expenses go beyond the income. But we cannot expect the same kind of prudence by our government, nor from the civic body that manages the city’s affairs

A mediocre household, while running a home, prudently thinks about the monthly income and the expenses. It takes every care if the expenses go beyond the income. But we cannot expect the same kind of prudence by our government, nor from the civic body that manages the city’s affairs.

Like every year, soon after the central budget, the state and the BMC presented their annual budgets. Whereas the state budget is approximately of Rs 2 lakh crore, the BMC budget is Rs 31,000 crore.

Budgets are significant in the sense that contribution comes from the general public. Almost each and every citizen is a contributor to the state and civic kitty in some or the other way.

Citizens of Mumbai contribute hugely to both the state and the BMC. While the corporation’s budget is based on the contribution by Mumbai residents, the same citizens also contribute a lion’s share to the state’s sales tax and annual collections, which is currently around Rs 64,000 crore. Also, add the huge amounts generated from stamp and registration fees, collections at RTOs and the state excise department.

Despite contributing in a big way, what do Mumbaikars get in return? Bad roads, encroached pavements, pollution, inadequate water supply, lesser open spaces and so on. The state and the centre scarcely address the issues of overcrowded trains, chocked roads and, above all, the rising prices of essential commodities and overall inflation.

Life is getting costlier due to increase in costs as well as taxes collected by the civic authority and the governments. To prove critics wrong, people from the government may tell us about the development works being carried out by MMRDA under MUTP and MUIP, revamp of domestic and international airports, projects such as the eastern freeway, Sahar elevated road, metro and monorail. Incidentally, the freeway and the elevated road have been funded substantially by central government under JNNURM.

All these projects, except the freeway and the elevated road, are based on public-private partnership (PPP), where contributions by the state or civic body are minimal and investment from private sector or loans from financial institutions is very high.

The money spent on such projects is to be recovered from people sooner or later. It simply means people pay twice, first in the way of taxes and duties, and second, as toll or utility charges.

Even if this is taken as an unavoidable measure for fast development, the state and civic bodies should explain why, every year, roads managed by them are in bad shape? Why no timely decisions are taken on extensions to sea links or water transport projects that can ease suburban traffic.

Is it the fault of the taxpayer? Certainly not.

If private investment is a crucial factor behind all major infrastructure projects, then why is the state overburdened with Rs 2.93-lakh crore debt, expected to touch Rs 3-lakh crore mark soon.

On the other hand the state is expecting Rs 70,000 crore through sales and value added taxes, which shows the buying capacity of people. Approximately Rs 20,000 crore will come from stamp duty and registration fees, which are mainly applicable to sale and purchase of residential and commercial properties.

Citizens contribute approximately Rs 5,000 crore annually to RTOs. People may have reservations over thw rising cost of electricity supply, but the state will recover Rs 6,000 crore from consumers as taxes and duties on electricity.

In all, the state is expected to generate Rs 1.75-lakh crore revenue from such taxes. But, the big question is about the returns, which are abysmal. The taxpayer is not someone who is respected, but rather treated as an accused at government and semi-government offices. Rarely a word of sympathy or cooperation comes from the people in public office for them.

The role of facilitators has been taken over by tormentors who forget the basic concept of a welfare state.

Even though generating revenue is a necessity, in our system, it is fast losing credibility and raising doubts over its usage.

— The writer is Political Editor of mid-day

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