Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Death and taxes

So, I know I harp on stupid governance a lot, but let's strike up the band one more time: this Orissa policy is idiotic.

According to HT's Soumyajit Pattnaik, the Orissa Finance Commission is pushing a "family welfare cess" that would impose a yearly tax on families that have more than two children.

Now, let's set aside the issue of whether a government should meddle in family planning, etc. Completely different arena. This little recommendation drives me batty, primarily because it hinges on a Rs 25 ($0.50) fine on families below the poverty line, and a Rs 60 fine on those below it.

Is this really going to deter anyone? Granted, for those below the poverty line, this may be more than a drop in the bucket. But it's far from punitive, and, let's face it, this is India. How can you enforce this kind of policy? It is slated to be run by gram panchayats, which are set up in villages with more than 500 people; it is not inconceivable that a new family member could go undiscovered, if that child is not birthed in a hospital/by a traditional birth attendant/registered in proper channels/etc.

Pattnaik reports that incentives for family planning haven't worked, so they're trying something new. this really a "disincentive"? Isn't there anything more innovative they could try?

Then again, I'm completely ignorant. Is this a good policy? Because to me it smacks of ineffectual maneuvering, legislation for the sake of creating the appearance of action.


Gameboys said...

The more fundamental reason why I feel a deep anger towards this proposal is that the state has no respect for individual choice and freedoms. Who is the state to interfere with anyone's personal choice? If they are so concerned, why not educate the 'poor' (they're such a problem!) so they make the right choice? Oh, but that would actually require the administration to be sincerely concerned with the welfare of the people!

Btw, I am from Orissa.

Never Just An Ordinary Girl said...

Hi gameboys,

I completely agree with you. Good point! What part of Orissa are you from? I have a friend from Cuttack and have been thinking about visiting there, because -- in spite of the odd directives on family planning -- I've heard it's a beautiful place.