ADCs and financial discipline

The Members of the District Council (MDCs) of the Khasi Hills Autonomous District Council (KHADC) are exercising their minds on the revenue generation capacity of the Council. The discussion was triggered by the decrepit financial condition plaguing  the Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills Councils which have not been able to meet their staff salaries.  The main revenue sources of the District Councils as specified by Paragraph 8 of the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution are (a) Taxes on professions, trades, callings, and employment or professional tax (b) taxes on animal, vehicles, and boats (c) Taxes on the entry of goods into a market and sale therein, and tolls on passengers and goods carried on ferries (d) taxes for the maintenance of schools, dispensaries or roads. The management of primary schools and dispensaries was taken away from the Councils after they failed to deliver. Hence the Councils no longer have to maintain schools or dispensaries.

However, it is also a fact that revenue due from the state government to the Council by way of professional taxes and royalty on coal and limestone and other minerals is invariably delayed. In fact the Councils appear to be generating revenue from issuing trade licenses to non-tribal traders. Without a trading license, no non-tribal trader can carry out trade in Meghalaya. What’s curious is that the issuance of such trade licenses sometimes takes over a year and with no reasons given. Several non-tribal traders who are permanent citizens of Meghalaya have been put through this cold treatment without any valid reasons. The recent announcement that any non-tribal who seeks to be employed in Meghalaya will also need a trading license is taking things a bit too far. What happens if the person is a doctor or scientist coming from another state to serve the people here? Why would that person need a license when he/she is a citizen of India? Does a tribal from Meghalaya need a special license from any other state where he/she serves before being employed? Evidently not! So why this exaggerated need to put non-tribals through the rigmarole of extra-constitutional treatment after they have paid professional taxes?

Private companies desirous of setting up shop in Meghalaya cannot be forced to employ local tribals even if incompetent. Companies operate to make profit and if there are extraneous pressures they would prefer to set up their businesses in places that assure, “ease of doing business.” And going by the new KHADC directive would teachers in universities and colleges who come from outside also have to apply for a trading license? Is teaching to be classed as a trade? There are limits to arbitrary exercise of powers under the Sixth Schedule. The KHADC has to be reined in.

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