Burning a Hole in Common Man’s Pocket
Winter has set in and the festive season is here. This means people not only from other districts of Nagaland but also from neighbouring states will flock to towns like Nagaland’s capital Kohima and commercial hub Dimapur for shopping. But you will be in for a shock as prices keep increasing at an alarming rate and shop owners quote exorbitant prices—a tactic to dupe those not familiar with the market in this part of the country. Inflation is one of the causes of rapid price rise but that is not all: Taxation and extortion by about half-a-dozen insurgent groups that are active in the state surely add to the final price of all commodities, be it clothing, household items, furniture or anything for that matter.
The business community in Dimapur has time and again complained against taxation and extortion by not only Naga insurgent groups but also by felons who impersonate cadres of certain outfits to extort money from people. Even fruit and vegetable vendors are not spared from this menace.
Several Dimapur-based business people told this newspaper (series of stories on ‘taxation and extortion’ published) that they had to give in to the demands of felons regularly out of fear besides paying a significant amount of money to each underground faction as annual tax. This menace is now going beyond commercial establishments. The Dimapur Area Ao Baptist Pastors’ Fellowship has complained that the Naga national political groups (NNPG) are levying ‘tax’ even from church building construction (via workers) that was being taken up after years of saving from offerings and contributions from church members and well-wishers.
It has triggered a severe backlash from both Christian and civil organisations, terming the new development as a “disgrace to the dignity of the church.” What needs to be noted from of all these happenings around us is the manner in which extortion has been continuing unabated all these years in spite of protest from the civil community, the most notable being anti-corruption activists, the Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation.
Entrepreneurs and business people do bear the brunt of taxation—legal and illegal. Some are even forced to close their dream projects due to this menace but it is the public who feel the pinch the most at the end of the day. The fact is that everybody runs business to earn profit as they have families to look after besides other obligations. So, they will automatically increase the price of commodities to make up for the loss they incurred from paying tax to insurgent groups and felons. That way, the actual burden of taxation and extortion is indirectly passed on to the common people, burning a hole in their pockets. The hole will certainly become bigger during the festive season.