“Absurd” is the oft-heard word that has been used to describe the reimbursement of income tax that the Conrad Sangma government plans to give Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and other central civil servants posted in Meghalaya, a plan that has drawn widespread condemnation from people spoken to by Highland Post.
The plan, given the nod by the State cabinet in its meeting last week, will reimburse central bureaucrats up to 95 per cent of the income tax they pay while serving in Meghalaya. This compensation will come out of the cash-strapped State government’s coffers.
In announcing the plan, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong said that the government is going ahead with this to pay back the civil servants for their service as a goodwill gesture to encourage them. This move will cost the State government Rs 1.45 crore annually, he added.
Many spoken to for their opinion told this newspaper that those officials who feel constrained to work here should leave.
“We don’t need good-hearted government servants or good-hearted politicians. We need a government that respects the rule of law and bureaucrats who follow the rule of law, not some greedy suited and booted fellows who commit irregularities with a flick of their pens,” said one of them on condition of anonymity.
It was also suggested that if the administration of the state is so difficult that the state government needs to show “gratefulness” to its outside officials, then a similar special package ought to be given to the home grown civil servants because the workload is the same.
Another said that it was strange timing to offer such largesse when Meghalaya’s financial health is in a shambles. The State has seen constant demands for salaries of government paid teachers, employees of state-owned corporations and the autonomous district councils.
The State was even plunged into darkness for eight to nine hours every day recently because of load shedding after the power utility could not pay its bills to suppliers.
The Chief Minister and his cabinet colleagues have been to New Delhi constantly to lobby the Centre for more money but they were largely mute when commercial drivers went on strike in protest over high levels of tax on fuel, a tax necessary, the government argued, as Meghalaya’s revenue streams are limited.
People are even beginning to question the foreign business degree of the Chief Minister.
“He (the Chief Minister) knows that the major part of the finances that the State government receives from the Central government comes from the taxes collected by the Centre. He knows that he’s going there every now and then to beg for an increase in the share of the State. So from which pocket is he giving this reimbursement to the civil servants? It’s not from his personal pocket for sure. It’s the people’s money and he has no right to give even one rupee away as a gift to people who are already being compensated for their work according to the rules of the Central government,” said another commentator.