Desperate times


The good earth gives. Its bounty is plentiful. It is men that are not as kind. Specially the sort with large tracts of land. News reports of the governments scuttling of the plans of its tax committee to figure out ways to tax agriculture are saddening. That, too, at a time when the world community in general is pushing for the government to take steps to increase the countrys tax revenue, in particular at a time when it needs all the money it can get in the face of the recent floods.

Attempts to introduce an agriculture tax are not new. Successful attempts to throw the former on the wayside are, obviously, as old. Some of the problems to impose the tax are rooted way back in the Government of India Act of 1935, whose schematics form the structural underpinnings of the constitutions of both India and Pakistan. But whereas the former has been able to circumvent the problem in its entirety because of land reforms, Pakistan has not fared as well. The perpetuation of the landowning class in the countrys legislative profile, including the incumbents, made it impossible for those who did. There are many dimensions to the debate. Of the arguments against, one particularly reeks of chutzpah; that a step like this is tantamount to punishing the brotherhood of growers across our land who feed our people. Though it has merit, it is to be decried when it is pled by landlords with huge swathes of land. There has to be a way to tax agriculture income from lands in excess of a particular benchmark, say, 50 acres.

These are desperate times. They call for desperate measures. It is time for the rich to stop feeding off the fat of the land and contribute proportionately towards the kitty. Once that is done, there will still be those trying to find their way around it. Dealing with that will come later.