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Extortion and Unauthorised Taxation: When Will It Stop?



If you notice, right about this time of the year (probably at its most rampant), besides the cultural and season’s festivities, we also read in the papers news related to crimes of extortion, kidnapping, unauthorized taxation and more.
What we are experiencing is not a new phenomenon. We raise our voice against extortion, kidnapping and illegal taxation, because we find every other person or member(s) of an organization, a union or government department taking equal participation in extortion and unauthorized taxation. These crimes however, cannot be completely alienated from other crimes, which only aid to increase them.
According to the crime statistics of 2009, in Nagaland Post, Dimapur topped the list in the total number of registered crimes among all the major police stations in Nagaland. Six police stations in Dimapur revealed that a total of 695 criminal cases were registered during 2009.  
In 2011, amongst the registered cases of crimes as stated by the Nagaland Police, from January to May, extortion remains one of the highest with a total of 24 cases registered and the arrest of 44 people. As per the Dimapur Police crime record from June to September 2011, out of 4 registered kidnap cases, 3 were arrested and forwarded to Court; 30 extortion cases were registered, 41 were arrested and forwarded to court. (S.P Office, Dimapur).
These events take into account statistical records of only registered cases, which leave out the significant majority of unregistered and successful extortion attempts. It is also disconcerting to know that despite the total number of arrests (85 arrests) from 2009 to September 2011, give or take a few, the number of extortion cases have increased from 24 to 30. What does this tell us? We are failing in two primary issues:
1. Failure to catch the remaining culprits
2.  Failure of the existing form of punishment/reform measures
In the first issue, “Who are these culprits?” Our society cannot tolerate crimes committed by alcoholics and drug addicts. We readily vindicate them. But what about other members of the society? My point is that whether our social offenders are from a political organization, a union or a government department, anyone who commits extortion, takes part in any form of unauthorized taxation or organizes a kidnapping must not be exempt from the rules of law and order. Exceptions in law and order have often been the case in our society, which has only led to disguised forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation. Until and unless a uniform law is implemented as binding on every member of society, there will never be an end to these forms of varied forms of malpractice.  
The second issue - failure of the existing form of punishment – requires that we take a closer look at the consequences that follow registered cases forwarded to court.
What happens to the convict after the court hearings? How long are they convicted? And why are they allowed a bail? Our law and order proceedings have shown an abject lack of commitment towards resolving the issue permanently and quickly.
Registering cases and capturing a handful of culprits are only temporary solutions to the problem. Subsequently, providing early bail or brief confinement cannot bring about any effectual change in the culprits. Unless effective forms of punishment or reform measures are implemented, no one, not even the general public will ever take our laws seriously.
Besides this, another problem that exists is the economic divide. The society has been divided into haves and have-nots, mostly because of rampant corruption, bribery and nepotism. Securing employment is not always on the basis of merit but through greater monetary value or political connection.  In such cases, forms of extortion and unauthorized taxation take place, through individuals, sometimes under the guise of a union or organisation.

How can we make a difference?
1. Learning the Value of Hard-Earned Money
I believe it is our private entrepreneurs today who can best understand the value of hard work and well-deserved money. The private sector, as opposed to the Government sector has always had the added advantage of having a greater sense of responsibility, list of checks and follow-ups with its employees and greater dedicated commitment towards producing profitable returns. Although they too have not been left out by extortionists, unauthorised taxations and kidnappings, there is a noticeable difference of profitable returns and quality, between the Government and private sector. What are the reasons for this? It is the employees.
Learning the true value of money is crucial within a community. To improve economic disparity we need to feel “responsible” for the money that is being generated around us, especially within the Government sectors. It is only when we feel a sense of responsibility to our jobs, to our hard-earned money, can we stand up and fight back against our extortionists and our illegal tax-takers.

2.  Administrative Cleansing
We hear about cases of unauthorized collection of money or taxes by "public organizations and government agencies" at various points and check gates on state and national highways. Illegal taxations are not only from the underground factions and unions, but often collected by the excise department and, most shockingly, the police even! Foremost, we need to cleanse our police force. If the law protectors are the ones committing the offense we cannot expect protection from them. Checking of malpractices, laying down of ethical policies and orders more stringently need to be implemented.

3. Education
Our society is unique. Our problems and history set us apart from other societies. Educational institutes need to start educating the students about what extortion and corruption really are, in context to our Naga history. Churches need to step up and address these difficult questions from a Christian perspective. It’s very possible that the people involved in extorting money are the children of parents who themselves extort money, and are used to pursuing easy money. The child might just follow the parent’s footsteps unless society educates the younger generation. I strongly urge everyone to not let our children grow up, experiencing corruption, extortion and illegal taxation as the standard norm that defines our society.
Abridged from of a paper, “Extortion, Unauthorised Taxation, Kidnapping, Law & Order Problems Plaguing Dimapur : Causes, Preventive Measures and Laws to Stem the Menace”, presented at a Public Seminar organized under the aegis of Naga Council in coordination with Woman Hoho, GB Union, DCCI(Chamber of Commerce), Tribal Hohos, NMDA, Business Community, Students & all Dimapur Civil Societies on 1st October, 2011)
References:
Crime Details. http://nagapol.gov.in/csdimapur.html.
Govt. of Nagaland. n.d. Web.24 Sept 2011
“Crime statistics of Nagaland 2009; Dimapur tops list.”
Nagaland Post [Dimapur] 15 Feb 2010.

“Degree of Thought is a weekly community column initiated by Tetso College in partnership with The Morung Express. Degree of Thought will delve into the social, cultural, political and educational issues around us. Tetso College is a Commerce and Arts College. For feedback or comments please email: admin@tetsocollege.org”


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