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Urban Bane and Tax for the Rich

The call for proper urban planning in the Northeast region comes somewhat late in the day because our urban centers have already become unmanageable—congestion, squalor & disease, water, sanitation & drainage problem to name a few challenges. And perhaps that’s the reason that the regional workshop at Kohima is being held under theme “Urban Governance, Management and Municipal Finance”. While the need for urban planning of existing cities and towns becomes somewhat of a passé, nevertheless for a developing State such as Nagaland where new urban towns and centers are emerging, the need of planning for the future is very much relevant. And that was precisely what was under discussion during the regional workshop—the concern over improper urban planning in the north eastern states and the need to adopt a comprehensive strategy and road map for securing a holistic development and reformation of urban areas. In fact this column has on more than one occasion made suggestions on the problems related to the urban boom that we are witnessing. Kohima and Dimapur where the point of impact is the greatest there has been no commensurate addition of infrastructure. And therefore we have an old dated infrastructure meant for the 1960s/70s bursting at the seams. It is obvious that we need to improve the overall urban infrastructure and one that can support the growing needs of 21st century Kohima or Dimapur.
For this we require a complete overhaul of urban planning. And that’s the reason why having such a workshop on “Urban Governance, Management and Municipal Finance” is absolutely vital for a State like Nagaland—where knowledge, awareness and capacity to deal with the urban challenge is very poor whether in the area of planning, governance, management or finance. Also we need proper utilization of funds pouring in through various channel/s. As rightly mentioned during the workshop by Dr. A.P. Tiwari, Fellow HSMI, New Delhi, “accountability and transparency is very important in governance”. If we are able to apply the rule of law, remove corruption within the system and improve our governance then only can we deliver on the problems at hand. For instance take the suggestion from the Chief Secretary Lalthara that “rich Nagas should start paying tax”. This is a very progressive suggestion that needs to be appreciated. The question however is who will collect, manage and utilize the tax collected? Our Chief Secretary says that such taxes should be initially introduced for Dimapur and Kohima Municipal areas. Again nothing wrong in that. The only problem is that can the Naga public trust our KMCs and DMCs to look after their hard earned money? What is the credibility of our institutions to perform such important functions as collecting taxes and utilizing it for public welfare? Given the present scenario where Municipal councils are seen as lucrative entities to be used for self enrichment, the idea of such authorities collecting more taxes will not cut ice with the Naga public.

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