Saturday, November 21, 2015

Revenue Avenues; Ideas Are Here, Where Is The System?

“We don't need new taxes. We need new taxpayers, people that are gainfully employed, making money and paying into the tax system. And then we need a government that has the discipline to take that additional revenue and use it to pay down the debt and never grow it again”…Marco Rubio

Marco Antonio Rubio is the junior United States Senator from the state of Florida, serving since January 2011, and is a candidate for United States President in the 2016 election. No wonder he isn’t asking for increasing taxes but increasing tax payers as election are on head & no voter will like a candidate who speaks about increasing taxes. So, the revenue is a worrying factor not only for under developed countries like ours but even for countries like USA too, at whom we look as rich country! 

On this background a unique news which didn’t made head lines yet caught my attention recently & it was about our beloved State rulers are very much worried about the debt which our State is carrying & decreasing revenues. The news said that the top brass of the State is thinking about more revenue generetion & soon they will be announcing a competition about the best idea or concept of revenue generating & the best such idea will be given price of whooping Rs ten lac! Wow, that’s big amount & this shows two things, first the condition I mean financial condition of the State is too bad & at last rulers have accepted that the so called govt has run out of ideas! And why State, similar position our Pune city is also facing with no money for development works & shortage of funds causing delay of many projects, so at PMC level also a committee of few officers has been established which is supposed to study as well find out new ways of revenues!

This is very funny scene the Govt itself in short of money; what common man is supposed to do then! I think though it’s a good & proactive step of calling people in for ideas yet before that the State govt as well PMC should work out an introspective search of their existing revenue charging systems & effective implementation of the same. For e.g. two days before there was a news that now PMC can get nearly a crore of rupees extra income due to National Green Tribunals decision for charging fire cracker stalls, per stall Rs Three thousand as surcharge for cleaning or pollution in form of garbage these fire crackers generates! And on next day there was a news  that as per the official sources it can’t be claimed this year as PMC hasn’t received the said judgment copy, so this year they won’t be claiming any such ses/tax from the fire cracker stall holders; great, isn’t it? Even a small kid know who owns most of the fire cracker stalls so no officer has daring to claim this money from the heavy weight stall holders whose hands have reached so high in govt  that they themselves are govt!

This is just tip of iceberg, millions of sq fts of illegal construction is there all around city & in district, its volume is such that the concerned system’s people jokingly says, “lets count or enlist the legal constructions, as that will be an easier job than to count illegal ones!” So neither we demolish these illegal construction nor we regularize it & start them taxing! Doing this will generate revenue in two folds i.e. one is charge heavy fines to the concerned developers, so it will be a income as well charge some fine to the people who has bought the flats here & saved money by not buying in a proper sanctioned project. Then start charging property taxes to these constructions at higher rate than those which are legal constructions. This all will be added income for the local as well state govt. But then the system which don’t have even the proper list of illegal constructions, can you expect to do all this mammoth job from it? And even if the list of illegal projects is made then also all what will happen is they will be regularized but no recovery will be ever made from them is a fact!

In Pune & Pimpri Chinchwad combinely its been said nearly fifty percent population lives in slums, means they don’t pay any charges for the infrastructure they use, which includes right from water to roads & every service of the city. I am not against any slum person as nobody lives in slum by choice but then that doesn’t mean they should not pay any tax to the city! As till now it’s never published by PMC what is exact population of the city, how many registered properties are there in the city & how many unregistered properties are there! Because then only we can get exact idea of how many people are living in the city which doesn’t pay any tax! Again no elected member or ruler ever has raised this issue nether any govt servant on his own has dared to take-up this challenge is a fact! Because that means directly confronting with the vote bank of leaders in every party, so it’s better to find new avenues of taxation & tax the existing payers which don’t protest a word but keep suffering silently! What a shame as here only can happen that fifty percent people are paying taxes for hundred percent population. And this is just for property tax, god know about every known tax like Vat or Sales Tax which state govt charges, so at the end its the genuine tax payer only who has to keep paying more & more taxes! Take example of street hawkers or any road side vendors, there are millions of them across the State & what taxes they pay to govt? Nil is the answer, we all know! Why can’t govt charge them lump-sum for the business they are doing at public places? Give a revenue target to the concerned dept & that has to be collected or else take action against the officers;as corruption is the most leaking door for the genuine revenue is a naked truth! 

Here equally the end buyer too is at blame as whatever you buy may it be a home or vegetable, see that you are buying from a legal seller, is the responsibility of a ideal or smart citizen! Because whatever you are buying if its legal then only the govt will get revenue from that deal from which infrastructure will be build for us only, so every such person is equal culprit in decrease in revenue!

Then another big reason which Hon CM as well finance minister of the State is overlooking & that is delay in implementing any policy which again is a cause of increase in costing of every single project around. See the example of infamous Metro in Pune; when it’s announced the budget was estimated as Rs 8000 crores & now the news says its Rs 12,500 crores! So now more taxes to accumulate this increased budget but had all the decisions regarding the Metro has taken in time & work would have started then we would have required lesser money, is a logic even a school going boy can tell, but our rulers don’t understand it! This again is applicable to many policy decisions right from sanctioning of development plans to hundreds of decisions regarding real estate, which is a major revenue generator for the PMC as well for the State! Simple decisions like TDR utilization policy or same DC rules in all municipal corporations are pending for years & outcome is those who are ready to pay legal way, have to wait & those who any way don’t follow any legal path keeps building more illegal buildings; so it’s a two way damage to revenue of the govt! And on other hand those who have been paying taxes what they get in lieu of their honesty? Nothing; as our roads & traffic keeps on chocking their travel, water is to be bought by tankers, their garbage is at mercy of some villagers nearby & their river stinks like a nallah, public health is in chao & what not! All this because the local bodies or govt don’t have enough funds for infrastructure & a system in place to do it!

Take example of revenue generating other aspects like tourism; there are  so many places in & around the city which can be promoted as tourism spots but for that again we need proper infrastructure, so like “pahale anada ya pahale murgi” thing; as we don’t have tourism because we don’t have infrastructure & we don’t have revenue so we don’t have infrastructure! Simplest things like keeping our public toilets clean, we can’t promote the concept of adopting the toilets by corporate companies & take decisions like allowing adverting on the same are kept at hold for years! We don’t make a list of spots around the city like tamhini gahat which can be a heaven for the tourists & make use of them in promoting the city, who has stopped the govt for doing what they can do with existing set up, is the question which haunts me always!

Time is money, I think this our dear govt should remind  itsef. As in any new proposal if the permissions are given faster & without hassle then it’s a revenue increase gateway only. Look at the environment NOC procedure for the projects above two lac sq ft area, here keeping respect for all good intentions yet the projects which has been sanctioned by local body is again rescrutinized for the issues like water supply or access road or drainage lines or rainwater lines, & the entire things get delayed for years! Why the environment committee has to ask these questions to the developers when answers of these questions lies with another govt department only! In the process it’s not just the project but the revenue of the govt only gets delayed, who will explain to the govt! And every possible reasons these departments gives for the delay in their own projects execution also, right from the usual less man power, to acquisition of land to rains or material shortage & god knows what. Finally the person causing delay is also from some govt dept & the person facing delay is also from some govt dept only, so who is to be blamed & who will take action is the key! This happens especially projects like roads or dams or canals & city related infra works. We can’t find out land location for airport nor for garbage dump yard neither for Metro terminal, I really wonder whether we really want to find the solutions of the problems or just keep shouting for them! Here govt can think of forming a separate follow-up cell for every department with professionals from the respective field on it & these teams will follow the projects above a certain volume & report the progress to the top level. At the same time like in private field the concerned officers must be held accountable for delay in projects & action should be taken against them & same principle should be applied for any revenue collecting avenue, so we don’t end with replies like “we have to yet receive some court order so we didn’t collected the tax!”

Another thing which every common tax payer is bugged with is what kind of works govt does with their tax money? Right from giving penalties to causalities even in illegal vehicles accidents to building collapse to making monuments for the public figures; all sorts of govt money i.e. public money is being used for many things which are in no way of use of the common man. Here unfortunately few are considered as more common & they are emotional enough to forget their real needs under the name of public sentiment or demand! High time the common population should get aware & stop demanding such monuments which indeed are important but not when most of us have to struggle for our day to day needs! And there has to be a final list of compensation for every possible disaster causing causality & no one should announce the compensation at individual whim!

There is a very popular fraze in Marathi “zoplelyala jaga karata yeta pan zopecha song ghetlelyala nahi” i.e. you can wake up a person who is sleeping but you can’t wake up a person who is pretending sleeping; same seems true with our rulers! Fine, no harm in calling more ideas about revenue increasing & involving more brains for the same but outcome will be someone will give a real classy idea for revenue collection, get the ten lac rupees prize & the idea will get filed & rest on some shelf in Mantralay & will get burned in fire some day! Hon CM, it’s not the new avenues of the revenue is the problem, it’s the system which is supposed to collect that revenue is!  With all due respect to yours & your colleagues sincere efforts to increase revenue, please understand just by intentions or ideas revenue won’t increase, it will increase by the system which will really work for revenue earning, till then common man will keep suffering & the so called system will keep making money on that suffering also!

Sanjay Deshpande

Sanjeevani Dev.

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