The enigma, that is Nagaland
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]gainst Corruption And Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) Nagaland, on Sunday spelt out what thousands of families in Nagaland dependant on government salaries have been fearful to ask or even stand up to – the issue of TDS (tax deducted at source) from salaries towards welfare of the Naga political groups.
Governments are known to tax its population in various ways but these are against services rendered, be it roads, hospitals, education, the nations’ security, research and development, agriculture etc. What’s more the accountability factor is tailored into any tax that a government levies on its citizens. In comparison, the NPG’s are several governments.It’s not as if each group is limiting itself to its “supporters” … the Naga individual is being taxed several times over in different forms. Another silent criticism of the manner of collection of taxes by the NPG’s has been the absence of accountability to the people. People want to know now what has been achieved with the taxed amount deducted/ collected/ donated/ and at times extracted during the period of ceasefire for the past sixteen years? This together with the heightened illegal collection of taxes from individual entrepreneurs and businessmen and the emergence of syndicates from the sale of toothpicks to JCB’s is what is leading to the smoke in the Naga family hearth.
In its latest salvo directed against the HoD’s ( Heads of Departments) the public organization have called a spade a spade and stated that no HoD’s or departmental DDO’s(draft disbursing officers) have authority to deduct the salary of its employees for payments to individuals or organizations.
The body has also raised a pertinent question on the conflicting and contradictory nature of ‘stealing’ from Peter to pay Paul.
ACAUT Nagaland in its statement on Sunday described the state government and the Naga political movement has two separate entities and that the HoD’s deducting the salary of government servant is an extra constitutional act and liable for prosecution.
For too long these arbitrary deductions have been continuing with fear holding the key over a silent and suffering public, accepting whatever came their way.
For the first time with regard to the practice of deducting varying percentages from 15% to 25% from salaries of state government servants a Naga body is calling a “spade a spade”.
Donations by free will of individuals, after a person receives payments for services rendered one thing, but to extract an amount even before the worker has received what is rightfully due is quite another. Then, such a practice is nothing short of “extortion”.
ACAUT has alleged that TDS for the NPG’s is illegal. A statement by ACAUT Nagaland chairperson L Supong Ao and secretary Solomon L Awomi said “at a time when the cry is reconciliation and peace, the government departments are directly encouraging factionalism in the movement by doling out money to all the factions through illegal means and such action is deemed anti-Naga,” it said.
The stand by ACAUT Nagaland is in sync with the movement for an over the board “One Tax One Government” system. Their demand is for all the five Naga Political Groups namely the NSCN/GPRN, GPRN/NSCN, NSCN (K), NNC /FGN ( Accordist), NNC/FGN (Non accordist)
to unite under a common banner.
It iss not only government servants whose salaries are being deducted but government departments also commit a percentage of development funds as “payments” to “UG demands” as the phrase goes. In the pressure of “UG demands” are apparently so strong some departments are more often than not reluctant to disclose the budgets they are sanctioned! They fear that a bigger budget allocation will result in more demands. What good then of the efforts at e-governance and transparency?
Can such an atmosphere nurture growth? The off shoots of growth in such conditions are reflected in the deteriorating infrastructure of our public institutions, be it our government offices, schools, hospitals, roads, urban rural development, public transport, rising crime rates and falling grades in schools and colleges and a steady increase in unemployment as well as “unemployables”.
The ACAUT Nagaland pointer to the state government departments that the practice of deducting tax at source of employees is illegal, may well set the cat among the pigeons.
The question is how is the state government going to act on this latest salvo fired from ACAUT Nagaland.
ACAUT Nagaland and the government are not on the same page. The former is still waiting for the government to form a high powered review committee … to study the whole gamut of unabated taxations and illegal collections involving NPGs and government agencies/departments. Reports and studies by ACAUT on the issue was submitted to the government following the October 31st, 2013 public rally in Dimapur.
The non response from the government led ACAUT to announce a four phased agitation in December , 2013.
In the first phase ACAUT sent out volounteers to inspect inter-state check-posts at Dillai and New Field (Ghorapatti) for collection of illegal taxes. Commercial vehicles, including small-time vegetable vendors, were instructed by volounteers not to pay any unauthorised fees at the collection centres and to municipal toll booths. Vegetable vendors allege they normally pay Rs. 30 daily (Rs. 10 to the Assam Police, Rs. 10 to the Nagaland Police at New Field and Rs. 10 at the DMC toll booth) as “tax”.
Other agitations in the pipeline included stopping all Nagaland government vehicles from plying followed by the third phase during which all National highways in Nagaland will be blocked and in its fourth phase a statewide bandh will be launched.
So far ACAUT Nagaland has stuck to its one point agenda of the issue of unabated taxation and at some level it has been able to break some ground as far as levying of taxes on a few essential commodities is concerned. But it still has to curtail the reach of syndicates and cartels on transport and other commodities.
So far the state government has kept a neutral distance on several of the issues taken up by ACAUT Nagaland. Many of which require administrative reform and monitoring but the silence form the state’s leaders is proving discomforting.
As a follow up on today’s directives to HoD’s not to deduct the salaries of its employees.
ACAUT Nagaland has requested the government employees to report henceforth on unauthorized deduction of salaries to its office or call its Public Grievance Cell at phone numbers 8974761098, 8974956854, 9856915353 and 9612169539.
Protecting the constitutional rights of its citizens is the prerogative of the government but if it perceived as not doing the same … the gap will invariably be bridged by other entities.
And this might not always go right.