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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It is not uncommon to see a housewife bargaining with a vegetable vendor over the price of vegetables, or a passenger bargaining with an autorickshaw wallah, or an employer negotiating the salary of the prospective employee. Often a housewife goes back all the way to the vendor to show him the rotten baingan picked up at his vegetable stand! We are all very particular about getting the maximum value for our rupee. There is nothing wrong with that. It is hard earned money and we are not going to fritter it away. Neither are we going to keep quiet if somebody tries to cheat us. But why is it that we are very passive where the government is concerned? Why do we allow our hard earned tax money to be frittered away?Why don’t we go after the elected representative for not fulfilling his/her campaign promises? Why do we keep quiet when we get so little in return for the crores the government spends on our behalf? Are we diffident or indifferent? Do we feel that we have no right over the government? We seem to forget that we all have some rights over the government. The government has come into being primarily to serve the needs of the citizen, which he as an individual or as a member of a small community cannot take care. It is important we have an accountable government.Some citizens do not seem to care because anyhow they are evading taxes while others think their business success is due to government patronage. The poor common man thinks he is not making any contribution and hence has no right or should have no expectations. We should all remember that it is not only the ‘taxpayer’ paying directly who pays taxes. Every individual pays indirect taxes. So apart from caring about the pennies in the vegetable market we should start worrying about the unaccountable crores of rupees being spent in government on our behalf.The governments in this country (Union and States) spend Rs 1800 crore a day.

All of that is our tax money, or money borrowed by pledging our children’s future! What are we getting in return for our money. About Rs 2700 crores is spent annually by governments on behalf of the 40 lakh citizens of Hyderabad. Even if we excluded half of that to cover the cost of defense, major projects etc, the balance should be spent for our benefit in providing public goods and services. Where is this money going?It is high time we asked these questions, and held our newly elected corporators to account. The citizen’s role starts now, and does not end with the election. In each ward we should form a citizens’ committee to monitor the civic services and hold our elected representatives accountable. All governance should be about people, and all politics is local. If we start taking care of our locality through collective and informed assertion, the nation will take care of itself. Let us start now.

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