Thursday, July 24, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi



Consider separate tax bracket for VRS beneficiaries

India’s economic growth as envisaged in the annual Union Budget may be sparsely achieved, but the rising prices of essential commodities is certainly causing great inconvenience to the common man. On one hand, under the globalisation phenomenon, the government encourages employees (in the government, public and private sectors) to avail themselves of voluntary retirement scheme (VRS)/Early Separation, whereas the funds that the employees get are so heavily taxed that the final amount gets reduced to a trickle.

Further, the interest earned on deposits, by those who have taken VRS and deposited funds to fetch regular income, is now decreasing day by day. The low rate of interest causes an imbalance for an individual whose monthly income enormously comes down. For instance, if an employee gets Rs 8 lakh in VRS and deposits the same in bank FDR for two years, he gets a maximum interest of 6 per cent. In other words, he would earn only Rs 64,000 per annum. What if one member of the family falls ill and may have to undergo a bypass surgery? What if children think of further studies (professional courses)? This at the middle of the bread-earner’s career at maybe 40 years.

The government should consider VRS on a separate tax board, wherein the principle VRS amount itself is not taxed at all. For instance, if an organisation gives 120 monthly salaries to an employee who earns, say, Rs 10,000 a month, the full Rs 1, 200,000 should be free from tax. Secondly, the same funds should be provided a better rate of interest when deployed by the ex-employee. The monies should be attracted in Government bonds/ debentures with a better rate of interest, say, two to three per cent more than the prevailing market rate.


A recent report confirmed a surge of VRS’ coming up. The Centre has to take some precautionary measures considering the employees’ interest. If one wants fresh skilled professionals in the organisation, one cannot ignore the people who have toiled for the organisation and may want to rest. Agreed, youngsters, get employment due to VRS or the organisation gets rid of the extra flab but it does not give the government any right to ruin the life of the masses by these taxes.

Suffice it to mention that the government cannot just shirk responsibilities by describing it is a “global phenomenon”. We are not demanding doles or unemployment allowance disbursed to retired and unemployed citizens in foreign countries.

May I request Union Finance Minister Jaswant Singh to appoint a committee to implement these two recommendations on a war footing? Please tax the rich and the wealthy. Bring more people under the tax bracket. Kindly do not overburden those who are already paying.


So much free time for railwaymen

There was never a dull moment for me while waiting for my train on July 12 morning at the Jalandhar Railway Station's platform number 1 near the Deputy Station Superintendent's office. Next to me were comfortably sitting five persons, four men and a lady — all of them railway employees — engaged in never-ending lively gossip, looking around here and there in idle curiosity, passing of handed comments and grinning, enjoying every bit of it, occasionally changing gears and talking of a particular trains' arrival and departure timings.

How could these worthies on essential duty find so much free time to be away from their place of work without being detected by their supervisors? May be the latter themselves were playing hookey and so were their bosses up the line: No wonder, our trains are forever running late, jumping off the tracks and meeting with accidents killing people.

This also explains the grubby surroundings, poor upkeep of the railway coaches and lack of adequate facilities and concern for the travelling public.


Deplorable policy

Strange are the ways in which those at the helm of affairs work. Every now and then, the rate of interest is being reduced and in a very haphazard manner. The interest on Public Provident Fund is being reduced too rapidly and haphazardly. For new accounts, it may be justified but for old accounts, especially when they are term deposits, they cannot be terminated in between.

Consider Post Office long-term deposits like the Monthly Income Scheme, fixed long-term deposits and so on. Whenever there is a change, which in most cases is too frequent, it is only for new accounts and not for already existing accounts, till they mature. Why such a policy in PPF and some other similar schemes?

The least sensible thing for the government to do is that if at all it plans to reduce interest so frequently, then it should be only on new accounts and not on existing ones. I wonder if some spirited person takes up the cause through a public interest litigation for the sake of millions of victims of the government’s deplorable policy.


Victims of babudom

Apropos of the editorial “Babudom's victim” (July 19), what a disgrace that the mindset of our officials that was honed by the British for their ulterior motives is insensitive to the needs of the changed circumstances! It required a sea change after Independence but is clinging to old notions like a limpet.

Our public men have done little to make our government servants realise that they are being maintained by the people to serve them and that they are not the rulers. Because of force of habit or to rein in shackles, bureaucracy tries to stymie any move towards development. It is time the anti-corruption laws were made more stringent and the people who dare to complain against corrupt officials are protected. First of all, dilatory tactics on the part of the babus need to be made a penal offence.


Poppy cultivation

Apropos of your report on poppy cultivation (July 18), the Central Government should not accede to the request of the Himachal government for promoting poppy cultivation in the state. If the state government is interested to develop the state economy and increase employment opportunities, it should prefer herbal cultivation, mushroom cultivation and forest development in different locations according to climatic conditions.

Poppy cultivation will spoil the youth and the aged as in Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab. The youth will fall prey to intoxicants, smuggling and blackmarketing. Suffice it to mention, Kullu is noted for smuggling of cannabis products. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons for Punjab’s declining literacy rate.

The Himachal government should not table such bills in the Vidhan Sabha. Punjab has also been planning for registered casinos, but thanks to the Congress high command, the idea was dropped by the government.

ASHOK KUMAR, Sarkaghat

A political deal

The Akali Dal (Badal) and the Tohra group have again joined hands after parting ways four years back. During this course, Mr Tohra lost the SGPC presidentship and Mr Badal was thrown out of power in the last Assembly elections. So, they decided to bury the hatchet and merge their respective units after striking a deal between them — the Tohra group will head the SGPC who, in turn, will help Mr Badal regain the post of Punjab Chief Minister.

Both leaders have joined hands for their political rehabilitation. They have befooled the people of Punjab many a time in the past and are continuing to do so. They have done little for the people, especially Sikhs, when they were in power. After their political reunion, the “Panth” is again in danger.

SARBJI S. PADAM, Mand, Jalandhar


Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
123 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |