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Monday, August 01, 2005

Hafeezspeak (File under Humour/Horror)

In the HT Metro today (Aug 1), Hafeez Contractor tells Stardust Gonsalves:
The nallahs are overflowing because of the garbage. The city is not equipped to cope with the clearing because it is not earning enough.

The reason for that is because half the city comprises slums that only sponge on the city as they do not pay anything...
Hafeez has forgotten that these slumdwellers have been pushing the cars of middle-class folks, taking stranded people into their one-room homes, feeding them, sheltering them, repairing their cars, guiding them back home. And should I add that these are the people who were building that road in Saki Naka where their slum was buried in a landslide? That they are the ones who actually clean the drains, repair the tracks, remove the corpses and carcasses from the roads? When it's not raining, these are the people who clean our houses, wash our dishes, look after our children, work without holidays...

You know, I think they pay more than their share of taxes.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Neha said...

I used to be on the team of consultants for MMRDA, and we were in the middle of a big project for resettlement of slum dwellers. Now, some really vague PR company was hired by the government. (Why they were hired over development communication experts is a whole different deal!)

So, the PR company CEO boor says .. Of course the middle class is going to be upset. You're building dwelling units for slum dwellers with the taxpayer's money.. He takes a deep sigh, because he is convinced that the poor are sponging off the rich!

While we could offer moral arguments.. what we did do was bang on his head with a very simple logic. All people in this country, who buy from a market place pay sales tax/ VAT. Income Tax/ Property Tax et al are not the only kind of taxes in this country. Technically speaking if a person has ever bought anything, no matter how tiny, they have contributed to the tax pool.

Secondly, if paying more tax qualified us for more from the public pool of resources, then the middle classs would be drowned anyway.

Besides, Hafeez should consult a couple of journals, or Solid Waste Management studies to know that the middle class generates far more waste than the economically weaker sections. Oh, and don't even get me started on the junk contribution of the upper class.

AArrghh.. Anyhow!

Mon Aug 01, 04:29:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

The real indirect tax that everyone pays in this city is octroi, and it's no small thing: I believe octroi is about 60-70% of municipal revenues. So Neha is right: every time anyone buys anything in this city, whether a pin or a car, that someone is paying taxes.

The tax-evading slum dweller is one of those great middle-class myths.

Mon Aug 01, 05:18:00 AM GMT-7  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, Uma, and more power to you!

Nirmala

Mon Aug 01, 05:34:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger amit varma said...

Good points, Uma, Neha, Dilip.

The biggest mistake the government is making is keeping these slums extra-legal. If their residents, instead of renting or 'buying' them from local ganglords, actually had legit property rights to their houses, they could generate enormous amounts of capital through it that would not just contribute indirectly to the city's exchequer, but which they themselves would no doubt invest in making their homes better and safer to live in. But not only does our government not spend money on them, it does not enable them to generate income from the land they occupy, and to look after themselves. The latter is as big a travesty as the former, if not much bigger.

And slum dwellers are hardly spongers living off welfare or something. They are enormously resourceful, as Dharavi, a hive of economic activity, indicates. They just need to be allowed to prosper, which the license raj and local politics don't do.

Mon Aug 01, 05:41:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger km said...

Uma,

Pardon me while I go for a below the belt jab, but did we really expect anything different from the man responsible for those ghastly, um, erections all over Powai??

Thanks for bringing this bit of news to our attention.

Krishna

Mon Aug 01, 08:05:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger uma said...

thanks, neha, dilip, nirmala, amit, krishna, for adding your views.

neha, i remember that when we were working in the adult literacy effort we used the same logic of all those little contributions to the tax pool...to justify a per head spend of 40-50 rupees for literacy materials. it used to make me sick that people would grudge even such minuscule amounts.

and thanks, dilip, for pointing out that every time someone in mumbai buys something, they add to the pool.

amit, yes, totally: they need to be given legal status and rights.

krishna: really! hc's made a travesty of powai's skyline..ugh.

and finally, i keep thinking: it doesn't matter if they're too poor even to contribute to the pool in taxes. they're doing everything else for us: painting hoardings overnight, holding on to shaky scaffolding, without safety belts or helmets; standing on the street corners running after our cars, offering roses and magazines; and women, working at road construction sites well into their pregnancies, earning less than men, not having creches where they can put their children, not having loos on the site, not having anything other than those blue plastic sheets under which they live...

don't these people subsidise our lifestyles enough? as i have said on my blog where i've cross-posted this, sometimes i think they've done far more for us than we can ever repay.

Mon Aug 01, 08:47:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger Dilip D'Souza said...

The other point about what Hafeez says is that it shows up this phrase I'm terminally cynical about: the "spirit of the city." What spirit is this if only days after the calamity, we have Hafeez -- and he's hardly the only one -- telling us that slumdwellers "sponge" on the city?

Mon Aug 01, 10:29:00 AM GMT-7  
Blogger uma said...

i'm surprised at you, dilip. didn't you know that the page 3 set are still rocking on? doesn't that show how resilient the city is? the "spirit" of the city?

Mon Aug 01, 05:32:00 PM GMT-7  
Blogger Neela said...

uma

i posted a response to this on your blog. am copying it here:

I totally agree with your message and think Hafeez C needs some serious talking-to. For one, as many others have pointed out, he is totally inaccurate when he says that the poor do not contribute anything, because they do contribute by way of indirect taxes.

But I must confess I didn't quite understand your argument about why domestic help, road repairers and construction labourers should not pay tax because they do less pleasant work. Direct taxes do not take into account the valence of the work done to earn the income - only the income earned thereby.

So if these many people do not fall within the tax bracket, they are within their rights to not pay income tax. Should, by some miracle, their earnings fall outside the tax bracket, they should pay the income tax according to the income they earn.

I think a misperception/belief that the upper middle class holds is that the actual income of many slum dwellers is above the taxable limit, yet, like rich farmers and businesspeople, they don't pay income taxes because there is no way to assess this income (unlike salaries earned in a typical middle/upper middle class job). This perception is based on seeing fridges, TVs, electronic items in slum households. (note before I get flamed: this is an observation and I do not necessarily subscribe to this point of view). A flaw in this logic is that with 5-6 earning members living in one slum household, they may pool together their earnings to buy these gadgets, yet the individual income of any one person may fall outside the tax bracket. But I don't think many people make this connection.

n!

Wed Aug 03, 11:39:00 PM GMT-7  
Blogger uma said...

neela: glad you raised that. i should have clarified in my post. i don't say that these people who do less pleasant work should not pay tax - as dilip and others have pointed out, they do, in so many ways. and it's also not about people doing less pleasant work - cleaning sewers, mopping floors, building roads - but about them doing all this work without the necessary safeguards and facilities that society should provide. like safety belts for people who work on scaffolding; safety helmets for people working on construction sites; gloves, masks and protective footwear etc for those who deal with garbage; some form of insurance for those who work in risky occupations? it is difficult not to consider the sheer absence of all this as also, indirectly - and in a very stark way - their contribution to society...

Wed Aug 03, 11:51:00 PM GMT-7  
Blogger Neela said...

Uma,

Thanks for that clarification.

I also hope that you or someone else (Dilip?) write in the mainstream media to clear this perception about slumdwellers not paying tax. After all, the net and consequently blogs, wondrous though they are have extremely low penetration among the very target audience who's opinion you would wish to change: the middle class.

n!

Thu Aug 04, 12:27:00 AM GMT-7  
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Wed Sep 16, 02:10:00 AM GMT-7  

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