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Annadurai with AnbazhaganTaking part in the discussions following the introduction of the Finance Bill in 1966 in the Rajya Sabha, Anna says that the amount of taxation raised in the country is so colossal and the returns to the people by way of social services, education and health etc., is so meager. He condemns wasteful duplication of administrative units and inadequate investment on education, health, water supply and social services. In a fiery well-informed speech, Anna demolishes those wishful castles of imagination built in the air by the Ruling Party regarding the prosperity and progress of the country. He examines the volume, velocity and vindictiveness of taxation measures and criticizes the Government’s almost complete dependence on taxes. He characterizes the performance of the Government as poor and charges the Government with the heinous crime of poor husbanding of the available resources of the country. He quotes widely divergent authorities ranging from experts from the Univer Nations and the World Bank to Soviet economists and a Congress Minister to prove his point of poor performance by the Government.

Anna accuses the Government of having miserably failed to generate revenues from the Government’s vast investments in the public sector. It is refreshing to note that at the time these papers are edited (1975) there is greater awareness in the country on the need to earn adequate return from investments in the public sector.

Mr. Chairman, Sir, whenever we from this side of the House rise to offer our criticism on any of the measures brought forward by the Government, we do so with a kind of hesitation, because the sincere criticisims offered are, for erroneous reasons, commandeered from the other side of the House as misrepresentations. For instance, from this side of the House, when we question the rationale behind foreign aid, Members of the ruling party rise to ask whether any country can do without such aid. They point out copious illustrations from the history of the various countries to show that most of the countries have relied upon foreign aid. But, Sir, when we question the rationale behind the growing dimension of aid, we do not mean to say that no country should take aid from any other country. We are concerned, as responsible members of the society, about the nature, the volume, the velocity of the aid taken and the use to which the aid is being put and our capacity for repayment. When we question it, we question the rationale behind foreign aid. Whenever we put forward that plea, Members from the ruling side rise to say that we are against aid as a whole, because in a world which is becoming smaller and smaller, no country can live without interdependence with another country. Our purpose in questioning it is only to find out whether the amount is being put to the best use, whether we are developing our repayment capacity, whether the creditor countries have got implicit confidence in us whenever we demand more and more aid.

Whenever we raise a point, especially about taxation measures, the Members of the ruling Party rise to ask whether any Government can live without taxes. It is too elementary to be mentioned in this august House. Nobody thinks that a welfare State or even a police state can be run without taxes. But when we question the measure of taxation, we are concerned with the volume, the velocity and the vindictiveness of the taxation measure. We have been pointing out many a time that more and more indirect taxation is being indulged in. The common man is being taxed more and more, is sugar is taxed, if kerosene is taxed, if these things are taxed to such an extent that the regressive nature of indirect taxation has had its impact on the life of the masses of this country. That is why we question the rationale of indirect taxation.

I understand, Mr Chairman, that no civilized Government should depend on taxation alone, for its welfare measures. A Goverrnment, if it is to be called a welfare Government, a progressive and modern Government, should not crush the people with taxation, merely because it needs more and more money for expenditure. They should prune expenditure. There should be priorities, and they should augment their resources, not merely from new taxes, but from the revenues that have been promised by the public sector. We have allotted a colossal sum to the public sector and what is the performance of the public sector? Have we realized the revenues expected of it? When you have failed woefully, miserably and continuously in regard to the public sector, robbing people, robbing Peter to Pay Paul, when you have indulged in more and more taxation, we on this die of the House have got a right to question your new taxation proposals. When I say that the Government should look to sources other than taxation, I am referring not to loans, because they have to be repaid. I refer to the public sector revenues, which we have not been able to get. I say that the taxation proposals of this Government are more and more regressive, leading to the grinding poverty of the people. They point out that all this money collected by way of taxation is being spent for the welfare of the people. As a matter of fact, they have stated in a very enthusiastic manner as follows :

“Since every Plan must evoke popular response if it is to be successful and since the ultimate objective of planned development is the improvement in the conditions of living of the people, the investment on commodity production has to be matched by allocation of adequate resources to those activities which constitute an investment in human resources.”

I would like to ask Members of the House through you, Mr. Chairman, to enlighten me on whether they have carried out this policy in respect of human resources, whether they have allotted enough money for social purposes, so that the common man may feel, that whatever he is paying by way of taxation, he derives benefit from it. Here it is further stated:

“The Fourth Plans has, therefore, provided for a much larger proportion of the Plan outlay to education, health, water supply and such order social service sectors.”

Mr. Chairman, when I read this very enthusiastic preamble, I read through the report to find out how they have translated this into action. It has been stated that they have allotted more and more money for education, health, water supply, etc. I find from their presentation, that as far as health and water supply are concerned, they have allotted and spent something like Rs.88.53 crores in 1965-66 and they are now going to allot more and more money for purposes like health and water supply. This year they are providing Rs.81.60 crores. Why should we have such enthusiastic preambles when we cannot translate them into action? For housing and construction they have Rs.33.56 crores previously and this year they are allotted Rs.25.08 crores. For the welfare of backward classes they have allotted Rs.29.34 crores last year and this year they have progressed so much that they are spending only Rs.24.31 crores. For labour and labour welfare, they have spent Rs.18.19 crores and now they are going to spend Rs.17.20 crores. For rehabilitation, they have increased it slightly. Instead of Rs.15 crores they are spending Rs.18 crores. Mr. Chairman, I would here say that the increase is inadequate if we take into consideration lakhs and lakhs of repatriates that are now coming to this country from Burma and Ceylon. As a matter of fact, if this Government is interested in rehabilitation, it will have to at least double the amount, because of lakhs of the people from Ceylon who can make this country blook with flowers, with fruits, with tea and coffee. If they are to be rehabilitated, the amount that has now been raised, i.c. Rs.3 crores, is quite inadequate. On rural works, they have spent Rs.10 crores last year and they have progressed so much that they are now giving Rs.8 crores. On social services, they spent Rs.407 crores last time and now they are spending Rs.300 crores.

Now, I would with your permission, Mr. Chairman, question the necessity for such an enthusiastic preamble. Maybe the preamble is written by one officer and the chart is prepared by another officer and the chart-preparing officer is not as enthusiastic as the preamble-preparing officer. This is the sort of problem and this is the sort of method that is adopted by the Government. The amount of taxation that has been raised is so colossal and the return to the people by way so of social services, health, education, etc. is so meager that I want of find out where all this money goes. Of course, they say that they have got such an advanced form of Government, that more and more money is to be spent on the administrative machinery. They have promised all sorts of administrative reforms, forgetting for the moment that there are so many schemes in the pigeonholes of the Government of India, wherein various administrative reforms have been adumbrated. Let us hope that the new Administrative Reforms Commission will be more effective than the previous one. But we should recognize the fact and Members of the ruling party should admit their failure to economise on administrative expenditure. There is not only multiplication of administrative units but there is actual duplication of administrative units.

Mr. Chairman, we know that the Government of India has got an official organ for small scale savings and they are spending a lot of money on it. They are now saying that the returns are adequate. I am not going into that now. But when there is an official organization for small scale savings, I would like to be enlightened by the Government for the necessity for this. It says :

“The Savings Mobilisation Board was set up as a Registered Society in 1964. The objects of the Board inter alia, are the promotion of savings and investments, in all forms of the small savings schemes of Government, the Unit Trust of India and selected Public Sector undertakings. Grants to the Saving Mobilisation Board will amount to Rs.55 lakhs this year and Rs.65 lakhs next year based on the actual requirements of the Board.”

Now this is a sheer waste of money and duplication of institutions. When the all-powerful Government of India has got an official wing for this purpose, what is the necessity for a non-official body, though a registed one, getting Rs.55 lakhs and Rs.65 lakhs as grants from the Government? This sort of wastage is taking place in every field. It is, therefore, I say that they should look to sources other than taxation, especially the public sector revenue. They should so prune their administrative expenditure, that multiplication and duplication are put an end to.

Again, when we point out that the performance of this Government is very poor, the Members of the ruling Party here and elsewhere, assume an air of amazement and arrogate to themselves a professional tone, and ask us to remember that even Russia had to wait for two decades and even three decades. We ask them for an explanation for their failure and not for an elementary lesson in Russian history. We know Russia and we know Russian history. To compare the time taken by Russia for effecting improvements with the time taken by India for economic development is something so ludicrous that it is unworthy of being mentioned in this august House. What was Russia after her revolution and how was India when the flag was unfurled at the Red Fort? True it is that the British bled us white. But this country was not left in an uprooted state. The whole farmland was devastated. Whole families were uprooted and society was in the throes of panic and disorder. And from that, her leaders, the leaders of Russia, had to take the country along the path of progress and they have advanced and the time of plenty has become a possibility for them.

You put Russia after the revolution and India after her independence, on the same plane. I challenge the Members of the ruling Party to present the comparative pictures of these two situations, before any august House and await the verdict of that august assembly. In 1947, when Independence was granted to India, India was not in the same situation, in a similar situation or in an identical situation that Russia was in, after the Revolution. Another point it that the process and the methods of development in the eighteenth century were different from those of the nineteenth century and different from the twentieth. In between, technological and scientific achievements have gathered such momentum that if it took 20 years in the eighteenth century to attain a level of economic development, in five years. Russia did not have that time, all this technology and science. What is needed in the modern age is a correct appraisal and a correct application of modern technology and scientific achievements. But what Russia had to do at that time, was not the application of science.

To compare that Russia with the present-day India, is something ludicrous. If I give a fine typewriter to my young son and ask him to prepare a draft and if he takes two hours, well, naturally I get irritated and ask him, “Why are you sluggish?” And if my son were to retort “Grandfather took a whole day to prepare a draft.” Is he being impertinent, or is he being foolish? Because his grandfather did not have a fine typewriter, he had to prepare a parchment, he had to sharpen his quill. All this he had to do and so he took a whole day to prepare the draft. But here I have given my son a fine typewriter.

The modern age has given India a fine typewriter and if you do not know the keyboard, who is to blame, if you take such a long time and if you make such sluggish motions? Of course you say you are moving. Yes, even a snail says it is moving. All, except mountains and trees, move, even insects move. But if in spite of the application of science, in spite of the application of modern technology and the large amounts of taxes collected and the colossal amounts of aid you have got, if the progress is not there, then we are bound to and therefore we criticize the Government. But here, Mr. Chairman, is the finding not a competitive body but a competent body. They may say that we on this side are a competitive body and they may not heed our criticism. But here is the finding of a competent body.

A team of the United Nations Organisations has said that the rate of growth of the Indian economy was the lowest in Asia, and yet they assume an air of affront and say we question their achievements. At least they can give the research team of the U.N. the credit for having a rudimentary knowledge of economic systems. They say that the most unfortunate aspect of India’s economic performances, for the last decade, is that it has been uniformly poor, in every major sector of economic activity, including agriculture and manufactures. Rich indeed, Mr. Chairman, are the phrases that are given to us in tribute.

We are uniformly poor in every major sector and with the sole exception of Indonesia, India finds herself at the lowest rung of the ladder of economic performance in Asia. But the members of the ruling Party, will rush up to the top of the ladder and shout at the top of their voices, “We have progressed”. Evidently, capital has been misinvested and wastefully utilized. Together with the excessive Government expenditure, this has resulted in inflation. This coupled with the other factors has begun to act as a drag on the economy, affecting growth adversely. What says the ruling Party to this finding? It does not come from a disgruntled politician. It does not come from the Opposition Party. They are obstinate. It comes from the research team of the U.N. It is a lame excuse when they say that the rate of growth is slow because we do not have technical assistance, that we do have the proper know how. But the World Bank team dispels event hat illusion. The World Bank team says that India does not lack technical know-how, hard work or even the necessary finance, but suffers from poor husbanding of available resources. Whatever may be the defects of Indian society, Mr. Chairman, we are considered to be very good husbands, but this Government is charged with this heinous crime of poor husbanding of available resources. The team goes on :

“Priorities are lopsided; e.g., big irrigation projects are preferred to the much-needed fertilizer plants. Even the minimum land reforms have not been implemented. Legislation is passed but no real effort is taken for implementation”.

For this, I know the members of the ruling Party have got another answer; the Americans and American tutored people are always prejudiced against us and therefore they pass such uncharitable remarks. I have got, Mr. Chairman, finer colours to offer. Here is a structure from the Soviet side. A Soviet team has written.

“The policy of becoming self-sufficient in too many lines at the same time, has back-fired. The number of big projects undertaken to become independent of imports, is very large. If it had concentrated on a few schemes and completed them with maintenance requirements the results would have been far more rewarding. They would have maximized production; there would have been adequate returns and the public sector would have gained prestige.”

Mr. Chairman I have summoned, to defend me, economic experts, the United Nations Organisation and the World Bank and if the Government is not satisfied with all these strictures, I would present them some homemade toffee too. Here is the Congress Minister, Mr. Sanjiva Reddy. He has said recently, the problems like food deficit and fertilizer scarcity were the result of defective planning and lack of a realistic approach by the Planning Commission; there should be a radical change in the approach towards the country’s problems by the Planning Commission. I think that the cup ought to have been full by this time and is it any wonder, and is it justifiable, that we should be brought to the guillotine if we present all this criticism in our own humble way? What right has this Government to demand more and more taxes, when their performance is of such a low order? I think that this Government, after having taxed the people so much, has not given proper returns or proper accounts to the nation. Therefore, though I realize that I do not have the power to stop it, I cannot abet a crime of allocating colossal sums to this inefficient, unrealistic unresponsive and undemocratic Government that is being carried on. But whatever may be the criticism that is offered on this side, they have their numbers and their logic is based on numbers. Therefore, Mr Chairman, offering this criticism, we have to go to the other forum and receive justice from the only source, the first source, the primary source, the public and Mr. Chairman we are confident of getting a proper verdict.

Thank you.

(C.N. Annadurai's speech at Parliament on April 1966)


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