Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Corruption

Abolish Service Tax

Twenty years ago there was no Service Tax. Constitution was amended and Service Tax was brought in. It began at 5% on some items. Later it went up to 8%, 10% and 12%. After the depression of 2008 it was brought down to 10%. Now it is back to 12%. More items came under Service Tax. Now all items except 17 in the negative list are covered by Service Tax. All Indians pay Service Tax directly or indirectly. Most Indians own mobile phones and they pay Service Tax when they recharge or pay bills.

The government should abolish Service Tax. The loss of revenue can be recovered in various ways.

1) Abolish NREGA, NRHM, JNNURM and various schemes named after Nehru-Gandhi family. They are full of corruption. Murders have taken place to prevent the corrupt being exposed.

2) Attach properties of defaulters to public sector banks. Thousands of crores of rupees have been lost. SBI had to be recapitalised to prevent from bankruptcy. Now 15,890 crore rupees are set apart for recapitalization of NABARD, SBI, National Housing Bank and other banks. Companies like Essar, Kingfisher (7,000 crores), Hotel Leela (4,300 crores) and Paramount (500 crores) borrow huge amounts and when they do not repay, people of India are made to pay more taxes.

3) Auction Rashtrapathi Bhavan in Delhi as whole or in parts. That should get 1,00,000 crore rupees or more. Rashtrapathi Bhavan in Simla and Rashtrapathi Nilayam in Hyderabad can also be auctioned. The President of India need not live in imperial splendour.

4) Auction various government properties. It is not the job of government to conduct film festivals. The building in Goa where film festivals are held can be auctioned. There is no reason why taxpayers should finance Indian Olympic Association. IOA is not accountable to the government. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Talkatora Stadium, Shivaji Stadium and other stadia and sports complexes can be auctioned. Similarly various centres for promotion of art, culture, music etc. should be auctioned.

5) Stop building new universities. Taxpayers’ money should not be spent on new universities. Existing universities should finance themselves from fees.

6) National awards should not carry money. Some awards carry money up to one crore rupees.

7) Avoid unnecessary expenditure. Money should not be spent to host FIFA Under-17 World Cup. Bid to host it should be withdrawn.

8) Saturday should be a working day for central government employees. Benefits like leave travel concession should be withdrawn.

These are some suggestions. NGOs who protest on various issues can protest against Service Tax. They can have chain hunger strike. They will have support all over the country.

Lokpal deadline

Where there is will there is a way. If Congress wants to pass a strong Lokpal Bill it can do. If it does not want to pass a strong Lokpal Bill it finds ways avoid it. In that case the passing of Lokpal Bill depends on how strong is the will of people who want a strong Lokpal Bill. If their will is stronger than that of Congress they will succeed. Anna Hazare Group wants Lokpal Bill passed in the winter session of Parliament which gets over on 22/12/2011. Otherwise he will start his indefinite fast on 27/12/2011 and has asked people to fill jails and sit in front of houses of MPs from 1 January 2012 onwards. This time the fast is to be from Azad Maidan where his previous fasts were successful.

Various excuses are given against the passing of Lokpal Bill. Some say Anna Hazare is inflexible. Anna Hazare has been flexible. He wanted Lokpal Bill passed by 15/8/2011. He went on fast on 16/8/2011. He withdrew the fast after the promise to pass it in winter session. The government must keep its promise.

Some say Lokpal Bill should not be passed in a hurry. Lokpal Bill has come and gone for the past 43 years and no hurry means it will be discussed for the next 43 years by which time most of those who are MPs now will be dead.

One funny argument is that if winter session is extended it will clash with Christmas and will trample upon the feelings of Christians. Passing a bill does not take even a minute. Once 17 bills were passed in 12 minutes. Lokpal Bill can be passed by 22/12/2011 and if necessary winter session can be extended by two days. This year Christmas comes on Sunday and not even a day will be lost because of Christmas. If more discussion is needed the session can continue till 31/12/2011 when winter session should come to an end because after that it is another year and a first session of a year should begin with President’s address. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam violated that constitutional provision in 2004 under advice from NDA government. At least one Governor has similarly violated the constitution.

Some say Anna Hazare is holding the country to ransom. When terrorists abduct a minister’s daughter or hijack an aeroplane and demand the release of prisoners they hold the country to ransom. Anna Hazare has not done that.

Some say Anna Hazare should not dictate terms to the government. If industrialists dictate terms to government as to who should be telecom minister or who should not be petroleum minister it is fine with the government.

Someone said Congress is sincere about Lokpal Bill. If Congress says it does not want a strong Lokpal and will not bring a strong Lokpal Bill and acts according then also it is sincere.

Gang of Four

Gang of Four originally meant Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, Zhang Chunqiao and Yao Wenyuan who were powerful during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) in China. Anna Hazare spoke of Gang of Four in UPA government without mentioning names. One of them is P. Chidambaram. Second is likely to be Kapil Sibal. Who are the other two? Some talk of Digvijay Singh and Manish Tewari but they are not ministers.

Whoever they are the Gang of Four has succeeded in diverting attention from corruption. First there was attack on Prashant Bhushan ostensibly for his remarks on Kashmir. Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi did not agree with Prashant Bhushan. Then Arvind Kejriwal joined the august company headed by George Bush of people who were attacked by shoes. Then reports appeared about Kiran Bedi’s travel bills. When the first report appeared Arun Bhatia said Kiran Bedi should sue Indian Express for five crore rupees for defamation and give that money to her trust. However Kiran Bedi did not do that. Swamy Agnivesh accused Arvind Kejriwal of misappropriation. Two core committee members quit. Anna Hazare took the vow of silence.

It was not all doom and gloom for activists. NDTV conferred Indian of the Year Award on Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal.

On 29/10/2011 core committee met in Ghaziabad and decided to continue the fight for Jan Lokpal Bill.

China’s Gang of Four members lost power and went to prison. Anna Hazare and Yashwant Sinha have said that P. Chidambaram should be in jail.

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