With the COVID Cess on fuel gone, making ends meet —if the Nagaland state government is to be believed – would become all the more burdensome and tiding over the current crisis, only known to the powers that be.
The additional financial burden brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic is for all to see; the government’s recent announcement informing of the COVID Cess rollback making it all the more evident. Yet Nagaland’s affair with revenue has never been rosy, seldom finding a sense of balance.
It has been all too obvious, as the state Budget statements have shown over the years and successive governments playing by the tried and tested ‘no revenue avenue’ mantra. Mandatory Union grants and share of Central taxes have been all that the state government has been claiming to depend on, in addition to the special financial dole-outs as a Special Category state of India.
Fair enough, for a supposedly revenue deficit mountainous state, further pulled back by decades of political uncertainty.
Having said that, the point to ponder on, is the ease with which the state government tends to pass on the buck to the general populace for Nagaland’s ‘Banana Republic’ like state of affairs.
The accusatory statement, packaged as a rational explanation, issued on September 23 was one such instance. It is a known fact that the state government is spoon-fed by New Delhi, but going as far as accusing the people of knowing only “how to receive” is no better than a lame accusatory attempt at cleaning up one’s dirt.
While indigenous tribal inhabitants of the state enjoy a Constitutionally mandated income tax-free status, it is utter ignorance to allege that “the people in the State do not pay taxes.”
There is a thing called ‘indirect taxes,’ a statutory obligation, which all citizens contribute, consciously or involuntarily. The policy-makers might as well sit back a bit and give a thought to how the government treasury collected the Rs 10 crore or so COVID fuel Cess. What of the government toll-gates, where royalty/taxes are collected from traders and transporters?
Coming to the aspect of ‘own revenue generation,’ there is not much avenue without any big industry, yes. But the government has Departments, which are supposed to generate revenue for the government.
Banking on the handful of revenue-earning departments alone to run the state finances would be too much of an asking. However, the government can atleast make up for some expenses, if only it had the conscience to plug pilfering and blatant under-writing of revenue targets, while ensuring valuable revenue enters the public treasury.
The government said, “We cannot sustain ourselves on the belief that all facilities should be made available to the public without any responsibility on the part of the citizens.” The people were also told to learn to pay taxes and acquire a sense of responsibility and accountability— valid advice and point well taken.
On the same premise, the state government should understand that it cannot forever depend on dole-outs from Delhi without any responsibility on its part and also learn to be accountable about its finances, while rereading the concept of integrity.
The writer is a Principal Correspondent at The Morung Express. Comments can be sent to email@example.com