The Modi government has sent out a stern message to unnecessarily overzealous and undisciplined bureaucrats all over again. This time around, the Modi government has taken stern action against IRS officers, who were instrumental in triggering panic with outrageous suggestions such as increasing Income Tax for those earning above 1 crore rupees to 40 per cent from the present 30 per cent and imposing 4 per cent cess on those with a taxable income in excess of 10 lakhs rupees.
But now a Hindustan Times report has claimed that three senior Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officials, who played a key role in preparing and placing it in public domain, have been charge-sheeted over conduct rule violations. This stern action comes days after the Finance Ministry and Modi government showed no signs of bowing down to such a blatant show of radical socialism that borders on tax terrorism.
The Finance Ministry statement had read, “An ill-conceived report named ‘FORCE’ put up by a group of officers through IRS Association giving suggestions on increasing the taxes, etc., in the difficult time of Covid-19 pandemic. The release of proposals in the media through the IRS Association’s twitter and the website is “an irresponsible act” of few officers. Neither the IRS Association nor any group of officers mentioned in the said report was ever asked by the Government to give any report on the subject.”
According to Hindustan Times, officials have told that a preliminary enquiry has blamed the three IRS officials- all of them senior bureaucrats with more than 30 years of experience.
The Hindustan Times report reveals that a government official explained how the trio, despite having more than 30 years of service, young IRS officials to go public with their recommendations, instead of reaching out to the government through official channels.
Elucidating why the government has move to take stern and prompt action against the three officials, a top government official said, “This created panic and tax policy uncertainty in the already stressed economic conditions in the country.”
Indeed, the disastrous proposals went against the government’s present tax policy which is to make India one of the most tax-friendly and competitive regimes, as was illustrated by the drastic corporate tax cuts last year and the offer to individuals in this year’s budget to switch over to lower tax rates, provided they forgo tax exemptions.
The report recommending a steep rise in taxes threatened to derail investor sentiment in India, and the Modi government has taken note of such ill-conceived proposals.
Even in the recent past, the Modi government has been sending stern messages to the bureaucracy and only last year, the Union government had initiated action against tainted bureaucrats and tax officials.
The idea of an obsolete Nehruvian socialism and an even more restrictions-based economy during the Indira Gandhi era, has given rise to an overzealous bureaucracy which is inherent in a radical socialist economy.
Bureaucratic hurdles, red-tapism and deadwood in top echelons of the government machinery are all vestiges of the failed socialist era which are mere bottlenecks in the present-era of ‘rules-based capitalism’.
The manner in which proposals bordering on tax terrorism went public once again exposed how an irresponsible bureaucracy, combined with lobbyism can spell disaster and trigger panic in the corporate world.
The Modi government has however set a strong precedent by initiating action against the three IRS officers believed to be at the helm of the ‘FORCE’ report.
This is in line with the Modi government’s top priority of inculcating professionalism in the bureaucracy by instilling a fear of losing a job due to incompetence or indiscipline. It has retired almost 312 tainted and inefficient bureaucrats since 2014, and the Modi government won’t hesitate in taking stern action every time there is a conduct violation at the top levels of the Indian bureaucracy.