We all pay taxes. One will be surprised to know that the poorest of the poor including a beggar also pays
taxes. Every time one buys commonplace products like toothpaste, brush, clothes, notebooks, pencils, or a soap cake, then excise duty or sales tax is included in the price of that product. This tax that has gone into the government coffers is our money. There are stamp duties, service taxes, custom duties and plethora of other taxes that go to government coffers. The statistics show that 70% of the population spends about Rs.20 only per day, per person. In a family of five, the monthly expense is Rs. 3000. If all kinds of taxes are added up, they average about 10%. In other words, even a poor family pays a tax of Rs.300 per month or Rs.3600 per year. If there are 1000 families in a village, then on an average they pay a tax of Rs.36 Lacs to the government. In 10 years, it means your village has paid a tax of Rs.3.6 Crores.
Lord Metcalf, the Governor General of India, wrote in the year 1830 that the foundation of this country is its Village Sabhas. The people of a village meet at a common point and take joint decisions. In 1860 the British brought in a law that destroyed the Village Sabhas because they had understood that until this foundation is destabilized, they cannot rule India effectively. A law was enacted to bring in the collector raj. All rights that the people had or the Village Sabhas had, were snatched from them and given to the British collectors. All areas of life and living were now controlled by the British through one or the other government department. On top of all the government departments was a white man who was known as “The Collector” or “Burra Sahib”.
It is quite unfortunate that though we got independence in 1947 yet the rights of the people were not returned. The rights of Village Sabhas were not returned. We replaced the British collector with an Indian. We kept all the paraphernalia of the British government as it is: Its arrogance, its unapproachability, its mentality of being a ruler. The Indian collector, now a bureaucrat, is still the “Burra Sahib”. Until and unless the rights of the people are returned to the people, there is no hope of reform andno hope of freedom to the people. Hence MUKTI arranged “Village/Gram Sabhas” on its own with the active participation of the villagers, in selected villages within 5 administrative Blocks from time to time. Mukti comes to know of the immediate requirements from these Sabhas and then lobbies the Government stakeholders, or guides the villagers to file RTI applications by themselves. Mukti tells the villagers that they are the owners of the tax which has been collected by the government. All the government officers, bureaucrats, and the political leaders are their servants. It is tax paid by them that disburses their salary. It is their money that provides them with bungalows. It is their money that runs their air conditioners. It is their money that provides them with those cars with flash lights, its petrol and their servants.
MUKTI, with the fervent cooperation of the regional CSOs/CBOs/NGOs, till to date have organized more than 125 “Village/Gram Sabhas” in 5 Blocks of District South 24 Paraganas, with substantive outcomes.