Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Permission not to pay tax

Every time we go out, we wonder what has happened to all the good practices we’d seen as we grew up in the city. I’m talking of kochin. Once upon a time, municipality workers with tall brooms used to sweep the streets and leave them clean and tidy. Where has that category of people vanished? Doesn’t the municipality or corporation employ these workers any longer? Have these bodies relieved themselves of the responsibility of keeping the city clean? What are we paying the taxes for? Every resident pays the corporation tax and every employee pays professional tax, both of which are meant for the maintenance of the corporation/municipality.

Last week a friend from Aluva told me that the town stinks with accumulated waste. Residents had taken to the streets to protest against the utter dereliction of duty on the part of the municipality to keep the town clean. Apparently, not much good has come out of it.

Isn’t there something called accountability? Doesn’t the corporation owe anything to the taxpayers who pay their salary? What surprises me most is the total helplessness and inertia of the taxpayers to demand their right to minimum cleanliness.

It’s not as though there are no solutions to the waste accumulating. If the corporation/ municipality can acquire about 30 cents of land eachin a few locations in every city/town and start biogas plants, they can not only deal with the waste but also produce fuel to light the street lights over a large area. Biogas plants occupy so little space and are hassle free and produce useful by-products. In fact installing biogas plants in government schools which provide lunch for students producing, on a daily basis, huge waste which they struggle to dispose of, will go a long way in dealing with bio waste produced by the city. These schools can even make arrangements to have waste gathered from the neighbourhood within the radius of a kilometre or two. Biogas plants meant for institutions can take in more waste than they produce. Residents Associations can have their own biogas plants which will spare the residents the hassle of sneaking out of their houses when the roads are free and chucking stinking waste on the roadside far away from their houses. Ways of dealing with bio waste are plenty. I know this for sure ‘coos I, along with a few friends, was on the verge of launching a NGO for bio-waste disposal last December when fate intervened and deprived me of the minimum health required to run an organisation. But I have done my home work.

The point is 60% of the waste produced in the city of Trivandrum, for example, is bio-waste. All we, the people, need is the will to commit ourselves to keep the city clean. Ways and means to do it will present themselves once we set out to do it.

I was wondering - - - isn’t there some way of making the corporation accountable, some way of twisting their arm to do their job? Can’t we citizens approach the court with a new plea? All the deadlines from the high court to the Kochin corporation to dispose of the waste regularly have been ignored by the corporation. Wonder why it has not been hauled up for contempt of court!

The new ploy could be a request from the taxpayers to be allowed NOT to pay taxes till the corporation does its duty – a class action suit. If a thousand taxpayers can pool in Rs. 100 each, there will be enough resources to take the issue right up to the Supreme Court.

Withholding money will hurt, and resurrect the authorities’ conscience and sense of accountability which lie buried deep under tons of stinking waste.


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  2. Well, civic sense and responsibility is something which is not very easy to acquire. We take things for granted and feels its only the job of the local bodies to keep the city clean. We think if we tie the waste in a plastic bag and throw it over our compound wall, our responsibility is over.

    Kudumbasree units are doing a fantastic job in many parts of the state. If the idea is spread to the whole state then there would be some serious changes to the current set-up.

  3. The money that corporators can make from the waste disposal issue is what makes them do nothing. When the issue becomes an emergency issue, nobody would look into how much money is expeditiously spent.

  4. Domestic waste became a problem in Kerala after our women became free of the fetters of male domination. The women all became employees. They are often busier than their men; or at least try to appear so. Machines do all the domestic chores. But waste disposal is yet to be fully mechanised.

    Educated women cannot do manual cleaning. They would rather stink. Why the men cannot do it is what women ask.

    Women staying home cannot clean either. After the TV and the telephone [and the Net, in many cases], they do not have time.

    Earlier, women at home used to keep the environment clean. Consequently, there was no residential pollution, no spread of infections. There was peace at home and in the society.

    We pay for our women’s liberation with our hills of waste, stinking environment and spread of diseases.

  5. @ stoic
    you shock me! surely you dont really mean this?

  6. My daughter had a speech to deliver 'Keep the city clean'. We're all talking about it. When the place reeks, we make a noise, and after a while it gradually dies down. It's been going for a while.

    I like your suggestion of "not paying taxes" at least until the corporation takes responsibility and finds ways to keep the city clean.

  7. I have found Trivandrum better than in the recent years after Kudumbasree got involved in collecting waste from houses. More than anything else, the reason why our cities stink is our own lack of civic sense, isn't it? We are used to throwing the waste we generate over our compound walls into the streets. It might take a big crisis like the outbreak of plague in Surat for us and also our city administrations to truly change our habits. And, isn't it true that we generate more waste than we can handle because we have in the recent times got used to consuming more than what we need?


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