Tuesday, 10 July, 2007

Taxing Times

Stuck in a bus, I was wondering. The bus was full on a Monday morning, full of all sorts of people, blue collar, white collar and no collar. The issue was this. Bus travel is subsidized. Through tickets and through fuel (diesel/CNG). Indian buses are built on truck chassis by either Tata Motors or Ashok Leyland (well, predominantly). They are noisy, heavy, have low torque and a bitch to maneuver. These ponderous beasts along with their cousins, the overloaded trucks, verily chew up the roads. Especially in the monsoons.

Everyone was complaining about the condition of the roads in that bumpy ride to work, first day of the week.
I looked around again. On this particular route, a majority of the commuters are blue collar workers - carpenters, masons, vegetable vendors and unskilled labour on their way to work.

What were they complaining about?

Can blue collar workers complain about infrastructure when they don't pay tax?
They get wages in cash. They don't pay income tax. They don't pay road tax. They don't pay the toll to maintain bridges and freeways (some people will argue that they do, as a component of their bus ticket, however minuscule, so we shall keep road and toll taxes out of the argument).

Are the tax paying minority actually taking up the burden of all the people who are escaping or being exempt from paying tax? We hear that Mumbai contributes to approximately half the income of the government of India. But does every Mumbaiite make a contribution?

Television artists, makeup men, hairstylists, production crew, catering and so on, in just one industry, live on cash deals. So do the grocers, carpenters, traders, vegetable/fish vendors, fruit sellers, packers and movers, small restaurants and hotels, tea shops, juice-walas, milk vendors, newspaper vendors, car cleaners, maidservants, drivers, chat stall owners, parking contractors, coffee shops, cinema food vendors, pathology labs, doctors, etc.

That left me with the thought. Do taxes increase the overall standard of living? Or do they just increase the cost of living?

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