Illegal tax collection on transport vehicles by various registered and unregistered unions remain rampant in the State. This is even after the concerned district authorities had passed an order directing the associations to collect their approved fees only at their respective offices. Similar directives have been issued cautioning these associations from collecting any unauthorized membership/transit fees at check gates, roads or national highways. Such taxes are usually levied at the New Field Check Gate, Dimapur as was reported in The Morung Express a few months back. As per the report one truck owner, along with documentary evidence, claimed that he was subject to pay certain amount as membership fee to seven different unions! This incident occurred despite standing orders from the district administration office. The taxes were collected at the New Dhansiri Bridge Dimapur Municipal Council Toll booth situated along National Highway 39. In the vicinity of the State capital truck drivers have to dole out a certain amount as ‘protection money’. The stretch of NH-39, between Kohima and Dimapur has over the years become a major breeding ground for collecting illegal toll. Even trucks carrying onions and potatoes from Assam into Nagaland also pay a certain amount of ‘patriotic tax’. It would be worth a try if complainants can immediately alert the police and administration at the time of imposition of the taxes, although it is unlikely for the public to get a positive response from the police or district authorities.
Clearly as far as enforcing any order is concerned the police would have to play a much more active role which sadly is not visible. This lackadaisical attitude of the men in uniform is hardly surprising. There have been complaints from various quarters of collusion between those who keep the law keeper and those who break it. The consequence of such rampant extortion has a negative bearing on public welfare. As the so called taxes collected has not been earned but acquired by illegal means it would also suggest that they remain unaccounted leading to the growth of a parallel economy. As per studies conducted at the national level on public finance it is estimated that the income generated through black money annually could be over Rs 50,000 crore constituting about 25% of the GDP at current market prices. Further such unaccounted money is either hoarded or is in circulation outside the legal trading channels. They could also be invested in gold, jewelry, real estate. The rampant illegal collection within the State has become an important cause of inflation and price hike. It is well known that prices of essential commodities escalate more often than not and traders are quick to cite the existence of the multi-layered taxation which they have to incur and quite naturally they push the burden on to consumers.
This widespread extortion ring has also given rise to fake cadres who collect money in the name of the established underground groups. There is information about the presence of a gang of unidentified extortionists who had been extracting money from small traders, businessman and even public commuters at gunpoint. The practice of generating State revenue is not being disputed but its misuse should be detected so that the public do not suffer. It is suggested that revenue collection which is within the legal parameter must be done through a one-stop-tax collection. For this the district administration must be more sincere in streamlining collection points. It is about time someone tried to make life easier for those who are unnecessarily harassed.