It’s something of a national pastime to bash Indians. We’re always held up to be the world’s worst citizens in terms of behavior and not caring about those around us. Articles abound regarding the unconscionable practices of Indians and an economist even wrote a book on why we Indians are the way we are.
Rajesh Kala – a blogger for the Times of India – never misses an opportunity to crib about India and sing the praises of China and always complains about the despairing feeling one gets when thinking about the Indian’s behavior vis a vis the rest of the world. One article article even tries to elaborately explain why Indians don’t give back to society using the notion of reincarnation!
I must admit it’s tempting to believe all that one hears of Indians. Coming back to India from the US made me realize how we can’t form queues (but only with other Indians!) and how we don’t trust one another to stay put and behave decently thereby creating a chicken and egg situation.
And especially in the matter of paying tax, I always thought that Indians would seize any opportunity to evade paying Income Tax if they wouldn’t be caught. After all if we’re completely socially unconscious, then trying to evade tax is a perfectly logical outcome.
But sometimes I feel that things are not all that bad. I was frequenting a forum of freelancers today where a thread was seeking answers as to how to save on Income Tax. Nothing wrong with that of course. Tax planning is a perfectly sensible and respectable practice. The thread wasn’t seeking tax evasion techniques, but merely legitimate means to reduce the tax burden.
It wasn’t the advice so much as the sentiments that went with the advice that surprised me. Most of the comments expressed the opinion that it was our duty to pay tax even if there are doubts as to the efficacy of the government to utilize the funds. Here are some of them: (click the last two to view the comments properly)
It’s even more heartening to remember that these sentiments are expressed by random freelancers – those who are in an easy position to avoid paying tax by hiding their income. Salaried people don’t have a choice, and businesses are too conspicuous to avoid it. Freelancers on the other hand have a lot of ways to avoid tax scrutiny, and to see these same people say that India needs the money and that we must do our duty by paying tax puts the lie to all our rigid stereotypes about Indians and their “dog eat dog” mentality.
I mean its so easy to say something like “If only I don’t pay tax, then the country won’t fall to pieces” or “Why should I fatten the pockets of politicians and babus?” Both statements have a certain logic to them – a logic that should be highly appealing to a “selfish Indian.” But instead we see a sentimental patriotism that I didn’t really expect to find.
So perhaps things aren’t that bad after all and there’s reason to hope. Perhaps behind the boorish Indian there has started to flourish a sense of what is good and bad for the country and for others. If so, we must give up our stereotypes for the sake of those who are making an effort to change. It’s not right to brand even one person unjustly – national pastime or no.