Jose Thomas

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HOPING FOR A CHANGE
Tuesday 26th February, 2013



     

 

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Dear Friends,

In my last blog I wrote about my future plan of becoming a “politician or a teacher”. This vision of mine is something that is real and one that I want to pursue. But I know it is going to take time.

If I become a politician, my first goal would be to give value for money to the public who pay taxes. I would even send a thank you note to honest tax payers acknowledging his or her contribution. All of us know this is not what is happening now. No one likes the tax man.

If I become a teacher, my first goal would be to take my students through a real and practical life path. If a child has an aspiration to become a doctor, I would find ways and means to take that kid to hospitals regularly for him or her to get a better feel and understanding of what they are pursuing. If it is an engineering student, I would certainly take them to factories and organisations for hands on training.

I will be writing more about these two favourite topics and I hope as I continue to write, my aspirations will grow to become either one of the two that I wish. I have lived and seen enough in this life but I have never been satisfied with what I got back; return for the taxes paid. Taxes cannot be treated by any Government as a fee to live nor an amount to be donated or to be purely seen as a socialistic act. Instead, there should be a reward too for the tax payer. Contrary to our general expectation, what is it that we see in our nation? A wide gap and misunderstanding between the tax collector and the tax payer. Disputes, pending cases, appeals and so on. It’s very complicated, isn’t it? And, what are we getting in return?

The annual budget for the year 2013-2014 is expected to be announced on 28th February and the business community and economists have already started to make predictions. If I have to look at it and ask “What is the common man expecting out of the budget that is to be announced?” The answer would be very simple. “What can I get for what I pay?” We all pay for various services in our life right from paying for our personal needs to going for a movie and don’t we all expect value for money spent? Yes, we do. So when it comes to taxes, what is it that a common man gets? What if someone who is not really prepared is suddenly faced with an emergency, like a medical issue, fire or any other exigency? I am not trying to make any comparison with the western world but they enjoy a lot more rights, from ambulance on call, police on call to free education. Unfortunately, we get very little here but look at the irony. Even though there are lots of dishonest tax payers in India there are millions of honest tax payers too. These honest tax payers pay their taxes regularly, knowing fully that there is no return for money. The only satisfaction I get is that I pay a fee to live in this country and to fund the government who in turn uses these funds for various reasons.

I have aspired quite a bit and I am sure the next generation is aspiring more. No one negotiates nor demands, but politely agrees to adjust with the system. My nation has a long way to go in from providing basic services for the taxes collected. As I write this blog I remember a story. In 2006, my mother was bedridden due to old age and associated illnesses. As I was at work one day, I got a call from my youngest son telling me that we need an ambulance at home. I said “Ambulance, from where?” This was in 2006, when only a few hospitals in Cochin, where I live, had probably one ambulance each, totaling to may be a figure of not more than 50 ambulances for a population of almost 2 million. When I got this call I was not prepared and never knew who to call or where to call for an ambulance. I started to wonder what to do and after making many calls to my friends and well wishers, finally a vehicle showed up at my home. It was a mere truck with no basic life support system, even an oxygen cylinder. It took more than two hours from the time my son rang to the time the truck showed up and my mother did not survive and passed away. Would this have happened if my mother lived with me in another country? I doubt it! There are cities and countries outside India where you get an ambulance on call, you get a police on call and so on and that is why they pay taxes.

I think a lot and sometimes I fear a lot too. Should I prepare to fight fear? All of you are aware that I run a school in Cochin, where close to 2300 children from the age of four to eighteen come to study. During one of my recent visits to the school, the Principal of the school mentioned that the security found a snake on the school premises. She brought this up to me as a major concern and of course it is a concern “snake in a school”, no! This is “no go”! I could have said “so what, this is a tropical country and snakes are expected to be around”. I could have even ignored it, but suddenly when I thought about the children at school and what would happen in case of an emergency without having access to ambulance service and anti-venom within the neighborhood of the school, I started to enquire. Upon enquiring, I learnt that none of the hospitals within the vicinity of about 30 minutes travel had stock of anti-venom. I also feared a situation if one of my students had an emergency and required anti-venom, where we could get it on call. Today I guess there must be close to 100 ambulances for the 2 million population in Cochin but is that enough? None of these ambulances are provided by the government. They are owned by the private sector by charging huge amounts which a common man cannot afford. With all this in mind, I said “How do I solve this issue? I need a solution!” I do not believe in taking action after a problem arises. This is exactly what happens in our country. For example when a boat full of people went out sightseeing and capsized, the government took action only after the episode. There is no concept of “prevention”.

With regard to the situation at my school, I said to myself “How do I prevent this and what action should I take? Friends, can you believe, I decided to buy an ambulance for Choice School, appointed a nurse, kept two drivers on duty and we worked with the hospital nearby to have enough stock of anti-venom. Friends, is this what I should have done or should I have expected this to be done by the government for the taxes I pay. The answer is known to all of us. What can we change? When can we expect a change? When can we expect value for money for the taxes we pay? If at all I get an opportunity to work in the office of a minister or administrator, my main goal would be to treat my people like I treat my customers and give them return for their money. If I am a teacher, I certainly would educate people enough to demand their rights and this is what we all need to rise up to.

Let’s hope for the change.

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Responses to
 Rishi John says:
Well said Jose sir.Keep on writing.The spirit inside me rises whenever I read your blog.
 
 Jones says:
I felt something really interesting about your website so I saved to fav.