As I sit to write this blog-post, I am clueless of what is the point that I am trying to make, that already hasn’t been made. Come to think of it – nothing. However I am still going to tell this story.
It started 150 years ago, when The Economists’ founder James Wilson was dispatched by Her Majesty’s service to instill order into the chaos that was the Indian Financial system. The germ that Mr. Wilson planted one and half centuries has now grown into a tree of such mammoth and labyrinthine proportions, that it’s difficult to keep track of all it branches, much less the worms that can crawl out of each!
But that is not what this story is about.
This tree, over the decades, was nurtured by esteemed leaders of the Indian economy. Thus was born the Indian tax system that compelled honest Indian citizens to pay their money which was seemingly intended to be utilized to provide them with better civic amenities, but instead, doled out to politicians who eked out a lavish living with it for their extended families, including starting inept family enterprises, not to mention, foreign trips and swanky cars.
But that is not what this story is about also.
Neither is it about that faction of society that strives hard to save their money from being taxed, thus giving rise to a whole new businesses and economies running as tax havens.
No, we won’t be going in to the gore and the serious stuff. That is for a debate, the more profoundly educated sections of the society can carry on with. We will stick with the fun part.
Rather this story is about jubilation.
Now 150 years later, after the Tax system came into being, some luminary in the Ministry had a bright idea – a celebration to commemorate the elephant known as Income Tax from July 24th 2010 among much fanfare.
There was a two-day art workshop organised in Kolkata from July 12 to reflect on the positive aspects of resource mobilization. Eminent artists were commissioned to showcase their work along with home-grown artists from the income tax department. This is currently being exhibited this week at the AIFACS hall.
To add the icing to the cake, there was party thrown on 24th July where prizes and return-gifts were to be given away to the select invitees. After all, what fun is a party without prizes and gifts?
And this where I start being the party-pooper.
There were 2 things that really got me.
First of all that I have not yet understood the germane reason to celebrate Income tax. Uh what exactly are we celebrating here – the fact that the taxes that we pay are grossly misused or are we celebrating for the factions of society who don’t pay taxes at all or did the Ministry just need a flimsy reason to throw a party?
I am still not clear on what was achieved or who benefitted – I as a tax payer certainly did not. But I am thinking that this is very much similar to a Archies Gallery propaganda. Income Tax day. Really? Art exhibition – now you’ve got be kidding me!
Why somebody needed to celebrate this occasion is anybody’s guess. Whose money was spent on the festivities is a secret that everyone knows despite it never being told. And who all took home return gifts – certainly not you and me!
I am 100 percent certain that Mr. Minister did not use his personal account to fund the party or the art exhibition, not to mention the hefty commissions given to the artists. And the media made it utterly clear why neither was I invited to the party and nor did I get a return gift. You see I am not famous or rich enough.
Here I come to my second point. I quote “Awards were given to celebrity tax payers. “The selection (for invitees) was made on the basis of top corporate tax payments and top individual tax payments last year,” said Neeraj Singh, additional commissioner, I-T headquarters, to Goutam Chaudhuri, chief commissioner, Calcutta” unquote. This from the Telegraph publication.
It doesn’t matter, that I pay my taxes honestly each year and am still not entitled to the some of the basic civic amenities [I am entitled if I bribe the local authorities, however that story is for another post).
It doesn’t matter, that I am in my own way contributing to the GDP of the nation.
No sir it truly doesn’t matter at all, that my fellow Indians, pay their taxes either – if they don’t have a famous surname and they are not paying a few crores in tax, they are not invited to the party.
This is the power of the celeb. The guest list solely comprised of industry leaders, artists, sports personas and movie stars, apart from the Ministry of course. Infact even the documentary made to commemorate the occasion is Bollywood-ised (nowadays even the government is taking that route). If you are a celebrity, you are in baby.
What was the basis for felicitation (apart from the clearly indicated fat bank accounts)? Was there any justification for awards to be given? Do we all not pay taxes? If yes, then why is there an exclusive club just for the rich and the pretty?
Equal rights anyone?
The point here is how we, as a democracy, are ‘sucking up’ to the celeb and the rich. We are ruled by their choices, we are enamored by the glitz, we as a nation want to put them on a pedestal and make them the face of everything that India has ever stood for.
We are so in love with the idea of the famous that we have created a whole new race (promoted by honest media’s page 3 and useless lifestyle magazines run by seemingly talented little offsprings of rich daddies) and furthermore a social divide. In other words, not being a celebrity is the equivalent of a social pariah these days.
What is really strange is that the Government has started endorsing it too. I really don’t know if we should change the ‘socialist republic’ to ‘popularist capitalist’. Some of the Governments actions certainly make me be believe in the latter.
Which brings me back to my original grouch – ‘Income Tax Day’, ‘Celebrity tax payers’? What were they thinking? Apparently not much. Why else would we have such a absurd celebration tainted by clearly racist overtones?
If I can bring myself to even justify July 24th 2010 (which I can’t as it was an imbecile decision in itself), the return-gift receivers list is even more preposterous. I don’t know whether to laugh and ridicule away or seethe with anger at this gross impropriety.
As an Indian I am outraged.
As an Indian, I know that I am not empowered to question this nonsensical act by Government.
And as an Indian I also know that I am a part of a supposed democracy.
Or am I?