Taxing people for Clean India

Primepost News Desk

Singapore is known for its cleanliness. It is spick and span because violators of rules are fined and in extreme cases caned. For example, if you throw a piece of paper or cigarette butt or spit on the road you will be fined. The amount varies according to the severity of your offence. There is no question of escaping from the eyes of law as your movements are being watched either by CCTV cameras or plainclothes cops or vigilantes. That’s why and how Singapore has earned the ‘Fine City’ sobriquet.

In India too, we have rules and fines, of course. But rarely are they implemented. Even if some officials want to enforce them, they can’t because of ‘interference’ from ‘higher-ups.’  If fines are collected on the spot, often they go into the collectors’ pockets or offenders bribe their way out. As a result, the country remains as dirty as it could be as if we don’t want to change the filthy image.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants to give the country a new ‘clean’ image with Mission Swachh Bharat. When it was launched last year with fanfare, the response from officials and civilians was tremendous. The campaign also gave political leaders and activists a photo op to appear on page 3 of newspapers and in TV grabs. But soon the euphoria has died down and we are back to normal – happily littering surroundings and using all open spaces as garbage dumps – proving once again that fines and rules won’t mend us.

What’s the solution? Tax! Impose more levies on popular and common items and use the additional amount to clean India. Indeed, it’s a good idea but what pinches responsible citizens is why should they pay for the irresponsibility of others?

Except whining a while, little could be done in this Orwellian world. One or two per cent surcharge on petrol and diesel, telephone services, coal and iron ores, etc. can fetch thousands of crores every year for the government to fund Mission Swachh Bharat. We will be paying for its success if the recommendations of a panel of chief ministers are accepted by the central government.

Headed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, the committee finalized its report on Wednesday. Among the suggestions made were additional levies on minerals, commodities and services; barring those who don’t have toilets at home from contesting polls and aid for the poor to build toilets at homes; clean energy incentives and sharing of financial burden on Mission projects between states and the centre.

Since there is no choice, people will pay the additional tax with the hope the country will be clean, one day. But if we see the condition of roads even after paying road tax, the new levy proposals do not inspire us.

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