24April2019

Andaman Chronicle

The Daily Diary of the Islands

Opinion

Abolish Octroi Tax in Andaman Islands

By Dr. Dinesh

I had written about this in Dec 13, 2011 to abolish Octroi in the media. The Romans called them “vectigalia” a tax which was levied primarily on wine and certain articles of food. Many Governments had abolished octroi in municipal councils in the year 1991.

Octroi tax is that, its incidence falls largely on the residents of the very city. Nearly a decade has passed since the ongoing tussle between the industries and the municipal corporations states in India either done away with or are into the stages of phasing out octroi. It sees to echo the thought that octroi must be abolished due to its various ill effects including the final distribution price. It is thus imperative to find alternative sources for funding the municipalities.

The octroi system, it is often termed to be “obnoxious” “vexatious” “wasteful” and “distorting”. The abolition of Octroi will not only help to attain economies on logistics and warehousing but will also make it a unified market. Octroi should be eliminated. Abolition of Octroi might result in some initial losses; it will be beneficial in the long run. This will not only ease interstate trade and generate more revenue but also impart some degree of uniformity to the tax system.

Octroi will further burden the poor people, and make a deep hole in their pockets, as the cost of living in Andaman is too high, due to transportation of commodities from mainland, sugar, edible oil, soaps, plastic goods, leather, textiles and ferrous metals.

There is apprehension among traders that unscrupulous elements will import cheap quality goods. The city will suffer as consumers will get poor quality commodities.

Port Blair Municipal Council should impose tax only for petroleum products, tobacco, liquor and new vehicles and should exempt octroi for other products, PBMC should amend the regulation, at the earliest possible. Different states have adopted different measures Tamil Nadu and Rajasthan had adopted by the abolition of Octroi. Punjab has done away with the tax completely without introducing any new tax. The Calcuta Municipal Corporation, the loss incurred from the abolition of Octroi was balanced by taking number of measures. In state of Gujrat Octroi was abolished in 2001, with the exception of six cities and later they came to know this was harming the cities where octroi was still being paid.

In 2007, the tax was abolished in the remaining cities as well. The then  Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh had asked to abolish octroi and even congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhiji had campaigned to abolish octroi by asking traders to send e-mail to his official address and around 9000 e-mails was received.

Shri. Bishnu Pada Ray, Member Parliament in Dec 3, 2011 had raised objection and had asked to abolish Octroi as “The islanders are facing problems due to inflation and rising price index”.

A Notification of Andaman and Nicobar Gazettee, No. 223, published on 16th December 1999 clearly says that ‘Personal apparel in use and not imported for sale’ and ‘Bonafide personal luggage and household kit that is not imported for sale’ shall be exempted from the levy of Octori, and terminal tax.

The trade bandh called on 28th October, 2014 by Andaman Chamber of Commerce and Industry is justified and hopes that Octroi is abolished in Port Blair soon for the benefit of the islanders.

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 109109

ANCOL – Will it be Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas, Well the developments so far indicate No it’s Not!

By Debkumar Bhadra

Never before in the history of Independent India has anyone given such a resounding and mature message of Unity with Inclusion unlike Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi did when he said : The only code of conduct of the Government should be “Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas” [Collective efforts inclusive growth]. The paradigm reverberated in the Honble LG’s address delivered on June 18, 2014 during laying the foundation for a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Knappuram village in Wimberly Gunj. Reiterating his commitment of commencing a new college from the academic session (2014-15), the LG said demand to establish Andaman College (ANCOL) in Bambooflat/Wimberly Gunj area is genuine as it will benefit many rural students. He did keep his commitment. Two schools namely : Govt Secondary Senior School (GSSS) Haddo Hindi Medium and GSS Haddo English Medium has been elbowed out/merged with a third school and ANCOL installed in its place on July 26, 2014 by borrowing a school building, a few teachers and a Principal from various schools and institutions and set the ball rolling for ANCOL. But whet ever happened next is a clear departure from the paradigm for governance.

A press release carried in the state media said the permanent campus of ANCOL will come up at Chakkargaon. Another release said for identifying a suitable site for the permanent campus of the Andaman College, wide consultation with public representatives, Officers of concerned department, educationists and other stake holder was done.

Finding the decision in contrast, the lone Member of Parliament Shri Bishnu Pada Ray publicly objected and distanced himself from the decision. Similar views of dissent have been put forth by Chairperson Zilla Parishad (SA), Miss V K Mariam Bibi and the State President BJP Shri Vishal Jolly. Though rarely seen, elected representatives and their political affiliates, cutting across party lines unequivocally urged the Administration to review its decision and consider Ferrar Gunj tahsil as the site for permanent campus for the proposed ANCOL.

Sidelining the requests from public and their elected representatives, a decision is known to have been taken to set-up ANCOL near Port Blair which already has three degree level colleges (JNRM, TGCE & DBRAIT). We have been given to understand that at a brainstorming session, majority voiced in favour of Chakkargaon for ANCOL. How far the effort was transparent or for that matter, the outcome trust worthy, could be judged from the fact that the all important session has been conducted on the day cyclone Hudhud threw life out of gear for the islands. The day was declared a holiday for educational institutions since public transport including ferry services was suspended/cancelled due to safety concerns. Consequently those students hailing from rural areas who could have opined Bambooflat, Ferrar Gunj, Tusonabad or some rural area got selectively excluded from the whole exercise.

The bid to rope in students in decision making is welcome, but students are students. If someone from Mayabunder is given a choice, he would opine that the college be situated in the city, may be near Marina Park so that they could spend their spare time chirping with birds under the shade of Casuarina. A patient waiting in que for his turn at a hospital in Rangat, if given a choice will opt to be treated at GB Pant Port Blair. An officer waiting for allotment of residential accommodation would opt Goal Ghar over Chakkargaon. Someone in the social media said, if given an option he would like to see it (ANCOL) at Ghanta Ghar. Jokes apart, it is for sure after ANCOL, the next few generations will not see another college coming up. Therefore such important decision cannot and should not be left to what a particular group says or thinks.

If the authorities really feel student’s interest is paramount and uphold it, they need to look beyond the city limits. Let a session be conducted somewhere in the Ferrar Gunj tahsil involving students from Class XI-XII, who would seek admission to ANCOL in the coming years, their views should be taken. I am sure the authorities will get an answer different from what they got from the chosen ones at Haddo.

The decision to set up another college is going to have its impact on the entire Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Therefore it ought to be taken at an appropriate level with appropriate representation. Rural areas having land resources and target population also need to be included in development initiatives so that benefits which the city counterpart hitherto enjoy percolate to rural population as well. Least the authorities could do in this regard is to revert to the commitment made by Honble LG during laying the foundation for a Multipurpose Indoor Stadium at Knappuram village in Wimberly Gunj. Let the paradigm set by Govt of India be the guiding force. Sabka Saath Sabka Vikas.

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 4873

Killing An Idea!

By Zubair Ahmed

Don't make democracy look so weird and ridiculous. Democracy is a good idea. Don't kill the idea. People, who have been denied a democratic setup and have no say in major policy decisions should not be derided by showing them a kid's version of the great system called democracy.

Moreover, the students who participated in this 'version' might mistake it as part of their political science class. In short, 'chosen' voters participated in this exercise, like it happens in banana republics.

Now, its of no use discussing 'threadbare' the process adopted to finalize the permanent location of the new college - ANCOL. And, this article doesn't wish to go into the merits and de-merits of both locations, as that is not the real issue.

The site at Chakkargaon is very 'beautiful' and enchanting. Its in the proximity of all 'stakeholders'. The set of 'students' and 'faculties' who voted for the location are also undoubtedly credulous. So everything is set.

There may be dissenting voices somewhere outside, far far away from those who matters. They are incredulous, naive and are sure to have personal axes to grind. So, in this format of democracy, their voices should not count. Or, they don't at all deserve such an institution. All logic fails when such an institution is placed in a rural milieu.

When everything was decided, this preposterous show was just the last nail. Anyway, I still think there is a small space left to express one's opinion. If that too can be sabotaged by staging another futile exercise, its most welcome.

The new college was a good idea. Everybody hailed the decision. There was a demand to place the college in South Andaman, so that the notion that Port Blair is Andaman and Nicobar Islands is changed. The idea was also welcomed. No stakeholders expressed any objection to the idea, when the Administrator mentioned it at various platforms. Indeed, it was a welcome idea!

A committee with eminent persons chaired by the Chief Secretary was constituted. Consensus was reached on the location of the college. The majority report was shunted and a fresh two-member committee was constituted and a single member minority report has been finally accepted.

The site at Chakkargaon is no doubt, a very beautiful and apt location for anything - a mall, housing complex, entertainment hub or any other commercial activity. And, it is indeed suitable for an educational institution too. Nobody objects to that. Like, the same 'stakeholders' if given an option to select between Haddo and Chakkargaon will undoubtedly vote for Haddo.

Why the new college should be placed in a rural milieu is not to make it a second-grade college, as the students who could not make it into JNRM were accommodated in the new college for obvious reasons. So, the question of upper-hand or competition can be over-ruled.

There are hundreds of students studying in Class X to XII in various schools in South Andaman, who are also the real stakeholders, who might need to decide to join a college in the coming years. Why they are not part of the 'democratic process' is quite incomprehensible.

When there was sufficient time to decide, we kept procrastinating, and when there is no time to decide, major decisions are taken, and 'stakeholders' are left with no choice!

Since many years, we have been missing opportunities one after another. Post tsunami, the Islands got an opportunity to plan and utilize the available resources including land.

All the permanent tsunami shelters were placed inside Port Blair and in a very beautiful location in Bambooflat. The beneficiaries were actually from Nicobar and Katchal. They would not have resisted any move, if they had been rehabilitated in N&M Andaman District. Prime land, that too in the commercial hub of Port Blair and surrounding areas were used for the shelters. And, we kept lamenting when we missed NIT due to lack of land that too inside Port Blair.

Most of the prime commercial space in the capital city is occupied by Government buildings. On both sides of the road, archaic govt offices greet the tourists, and we harp about a beautiful city. And, residential quarters are being built in Goal Ghar! And we again rue about lack of revenue land for commercial activities.

When we could not pan our vision beyond the radius of 25 kms, how can we expect to have holistic development from Campbell Bay to Diglipur?

The decision has been taken and let it be. Lack of vision or shortsightedness of policy makers are a bane of the Islands. Nobody thinks beyond a two or three year frame. Not a single development was result of long term planning. Quick-fix band-aid solutions to searing  problems add to the woes.

Post Script: In the 70s, approximately 300 Nicobari tribal families were uprooted from Car Nicobar and settled in an hamlet in Little Andaman called Harminder Bay. The raison detre was quite interesting. The Admn set on the mission after it felt that the population of Car Nicobar Island had grown to 10000 living in an area of 49 sq miles, which might pose serious space problem for plantations.

Its forty years now. Population in Car Nicobar might have increased manifold, but it hasn't reached an alarming proportion demanding decongestion. Is it true about Port Blair?

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 3548