In an attempt to increase accountability on the part of the government in spending tax payers’ money, a group of people have formed an association called Voice of the Indian Taxpayers (VIT), which will explore legal and other means to hold the government to account.
Tara Maithreyan, executive committee member of VIT, said the idea was born following the comment made by the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court early this year about non-payment of taxes in case the government is not able to curb corruption.
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Former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Anjali Damania had strongly support the HC remark. This brought together like-minded people who held several brainstorming sessions. Among them is advertising guru Alyque Padamsee, who called for an “Indian taxpayers’ union with the capacity to strike”. Advocate Jamshed Mistry, who was also keen on such a forum, had done some research on similar unions abroad.
“We are still awaiting the government’s promise of bringing back the ‘Black Money’ stashed abroad. As a watchdog, VIT would be prepared to be confrontational, if absolutely necessary, and we will protest only if the government fails in its commitment to the Indian taxpayers. But if all is well, we as dutiful citizens, vow to pay every penny of our tax to build a strong and vibrant country,” said Damania, who along with her party AAP had previously filled PILs against corrupt practices in the PWD and Irrigation department of the Maharashtra government. Former PWD minister and NCP strongman Chhagan Bhujbal was subsequently arrested for corruption.
Maithreyan said VIT was now a registered trust and would be apolitical in its work. “We will educate people about paying their taxes and at the same time ask the government to be accountable about its expenditure,”she said. “If a single taxpayer asks questions, the authorities might not pay heed to it, but if an organised group of informed citizens asks the same questions, there will be some answers,” she said.
Rural issues, Maithreyan said, would find equal focus in VIT along with urban issues. In fact, Raju Dongre, farmer activist from Jalna, is one of the speakers at the launch of VIT in Mumbai on May 14. The forum aims to help people file PILs as well as RTIs to asks ask questions and address corruption in government services.
After the launch in Mumbai, VIT will also be start chapters in Pune and in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi. “We aim to spread the movement all over the country and create a non-political platform for the Indian tax payer,” Maithreyan said.