The Absurdity of Babu Raj

July 29, 2006
Shantanu Dutta

When I first heard and read that the compensation being handed down to the victims of the recent Mumbai blasts would receive it with income tax deducted at source, I did not know whether it was just a bizarre joke. But later I read that the facts are as they are and unless the income tax department receives any exemption order from the finance ministry, they are obligated to deduct tax at source - and that too under the same provisions of the income tax act wherein winnings from lotteries, races and gambling and crossword puzzles are taxed and under the same provisions under which the winners of the Kaun Banega Krorepati were taxed.

The irony in clubbing victims of a terrorist attack and the attendant tragedy with the happier lot who win game shows, gamble and win bets over race horses and the plain old lottery ticket is itself inescapable. A bigger irony is that this sort of unfortunate "income" should be taxed at all and that a hue and cry has to be raised and exemptions asked for before the demand can be even considered. A good question to ask will be who will have the mental pre disposition to fight such battles with babudom in the aftermath of such a monumental family tragedy and whether some sensitivity can be expected from those who run government.

Similar is the case of the three youngsters who drove into the Prime Minister's house and were intercepted, searched, let go, then chased by police and then arrested. After a night in police lock up when nothing substantial emerged, they were nevertheless charged for illegal trespass. Of course for their pains, the girl who was a private airline employee lost her job.

No doubt the three kids who walked into the PM's office were dumb to expect that they could just drive into his house and say "Hi" to him. But whether they trespassed would be an open question. They stopped at the first gate where they were asked to do so, submitted to the questioning and drove back out when asked to do so. When our government and police gets red faced trying to catch some real terrorists, they go ahead and pick up some quirky kids who appear definitely short on plain common sense but by no account are criminals.

In many instances, our governments reveal themselves to be what they are - not a cohesive whole caring for its people but bits and pieces of machinery more concerned about its own functioning and protecting its own turf and targets.

And so the finance ministry and its organs are more concerned about meeting their revenue collection targets than caring about the common man and his sentiments - the home ministry is more concerned about the internal security of the state and the ruling establishment than the safety and comfort of the common man. So with each terrorist attack, with the state's ham fisted efforts life becomes more difficult at railway stations, airports, cyber cafes - with each financial scandal or scam, it becomes more difficult to open a bank account, change your address in any manner without showing a proof of address- security instead of becoming unobtrusive but effective becomes more heavy handed, inconveniencing and still ineffective as ever.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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The Absurdity of Babu Raj


Author: Shantanu Dutta


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