M R Sivaraman, Revenue Secretary in the early 1990s, earned a reputation for frequent and close interactions with offices and supervisions of the tax spread across the country. The then Finance Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, paid rich compliments to Sivaraman’s stewardship at the critical time of India’s transition into a liberal, market-oriented economy. Here’s what the former bureaucrat suggests as needed action at the North Block:
The Finance Minister (FM) should announce the replacement of the current IT Act 1961 with a new, simple Act. Several FMs had announced but never took any forward step towards it. Pranab Mukherjee did initiate some actions but did not complete it.
The Income tax department requires an overhaul as it has become top heavy and corrupt as seen from the number of officers getting arrested and retired compulsorily.
There are scores of raids, cases languishing in the offices of the ED, CBDT, and CBIDC and are not monitored. The result: subordinates make money hand over fist and the accused escape. The FM should announce the setting up of an independent monitoring cell under the Revenue Secretary which should send progress report on each one of the cases to the FM.
The FM could consider a tax of 40 per cent for income above Rs 1 crore per annum.
The government should re-organize the Ministry of Defence on an officer-oriented basis eliminating the clerical system drawing 50 per cent of the officers from the forces. This is only emulating the budget divisions of the Revenue Department.
Defense needs for modernization must be met irrespective of fiscal deficit.
FM should allocate money on the priority of completion of projects and not spread the resources thinly over many projects.
MSMEs in the export sector should be provided credit and power at international rates.
The uncertainty in the automobile policies has hit the industry badly. It is meaningless to laytime limits for the introduction of electric vehicles when there is no manufacturing capacity for EV batteries and when even the PSUs have not complied with government policy to set up charging stations.
When the industry in India is not paying up its debt and committing frauds, it is ironical for the government to look for domain experts from them. On the contrary, they should first put IAS officers in domain expertise jobs.