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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

 

Mumbai – Nature's fury or Deshmukh's incapability

After braving the worst-ever monsoon havoc, Bombayites or the Mumbaikars, as they are called now, have put up an important question before the nation. They argue, not without logic, that the Mumbaikars pay as much as Rs 58,000 crore to the exchequer and get a paltry Rs 100 crore in return for the development of the metropolis, which we proudly call the financial capital of India. While they have a genuine grouse, the question they have raised is of far greater consequence than what meets the eye. It can strike at the very federal structure of the country’s taxation system, which involves devolution based on the recommendations of the Finance Commission, as provided in the Constitution. It could open a Pandora’s box involving the strong reaction of people who have suffered not so much at the hands of nature but by the callous and indifferent attitude of the Vilasrao Deshmukh Government. A survey by an industry chamber revealed that the industry put the blame squarely on the State machinery rather than the so-called system failure. If you push hapless people to the wall, their strong reaction is well understandable—how do they care whether what they are saying might strike at the federal tax strucutre and the polity. So why blame them. A survey by an industry chamber revealed that the industry put the blame squarely on the state machinery rather than the so-called system failure. In fact, their argument that so little is devolved on the country’s mint city for its development has also been overlooked by the Finance Commission, which puts premium on inefficiency. Its revenue devolution system does not reward the well-run efficient States and it showers benefits on States like Bihar, where bulk of the exchequer is looted by the likes of Gautam Goswami in collusion with political bosses. Let’s extend the argument. What it means is that the hefty amount of taxes that Mumbai pays goes to the kitty of states which do not generate revenue. Extend it further, regions like Bihar are being run on the money earned by the hardworking people of the metropolis who had to go through hell for a week. While the frustration of the Mumbaikars is justified, what about the much-touted Disaster Management Authority, which is being presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself? As far as the record of weather forecasting and reducing the loss is concerned, Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal has washed off his hands saying he has no money. “You want me to carry out research and forecasting with super computers, you want our scientists to do R&D in bio-technology, nanotechnology, stem cells, but the funds available are only $2 billion’’, he said in the Rajya Sabha. In the presence of the Prime Minister he “urged” Dr Manmohan Singh to provide for more funds so that R&D capabilities are improved. The way Sibal was forcefully making out a case in Parliament for higher allocation and expressing his helplessness, one thought he was in the Opposition benches. When a Union Minister starts saying like “Government should do this or that’’, you wonder whether he is a part of the Government.

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