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The case for Anti-Corruption Movement

The last few days, the comments on the anti-corruption drive are amazing..

One person said, its all pointless, till we effect change in ourselves on bribing.

Another said, will anybody bother once the media goes gung ho after IPL starts.

A third person said, hey this guy also had dubious deal allegation, so why assign credibility to this initiative

Made me think.. Did we also introspect and question on every unrest/movements when we were fighting to gain independence from the British? Are we not fighting to get independence from paying bribes for stuff which should be available outright. Some make it sound, that we, ourselves, mentally go prepared that to do anything, we must pay a bribe, like we need to put a coin before making a call at the phone booth. It is not so. We are entitled to live a life free of the hurdles that the governing bodies impose upon us implicitly. Why must I need to pay a bribe to get a death certificate at that shady looking office, so that the last rites on the departed can be performed. Given a choice and right, I must not be “required” to pay the bribe. Often, it is not a choice but has been made to believe that it is a necessity and the way things are. When we go abroad, or live there, you will feel this difference, of being able to live your life free of the many hassles, we face on a daily basis. Need an electric connection, pay bribe to the officer, engineer and the guy whose job is to fit in a screw and connect the wire. Pay a bribe to expedite the MTNL linesman to expedite the line connection so that you can conduct your business. Pay a bribe, so that your elected representatives, can go to the House, and raise issues that affect your locality/region; something he was supposed to do and get paid for by the handsome remuneration he gets from the government. You pay bribes to lawyers, justices,court clerks, so that some depositions go missing, lawyers can look the other way, dates keep getting extended and justice can tilt to your favor. Is this it? To be a citizen of a country like India, I have to morally bereft of all ethical means and live a life of questionable measures. How many generations will need to be born, dead and passed, before we can feel this glut beyond the inflicted suffering.

Media – The partisan friend n foe rolled in one. Their objectivity is highly questionable and often swings to which ever way the powers want it to be. As they say – Jo biktha hai, vo hi chaltha hai 🙂 Recently, I saw the movie based on the Jessica Lal killing. Media just says, is there a story there ( worth making money on or getting TRP eyeballs )? Does the media really bother about right/wrong, objectivity, activism,social change anymore? Have our media barons forgotten the power of the written word of the yore like the Kesari/The Telegraph, during our struggles to get our dues? Or has it fully understood them for the subservient gains that arise from the press, as a tool of opinion manipulation.

Either way, the state of affairs has really gone to the dogs and the people (read PM ) on whom we pledged our faith in, have become the ones to dread. Dr.Singh does not appear to be a Lal Bahadur Shastri despite dressing up so and having a humble humility like facade. It is clear that we as citizens have a serious role in this state of affairs. We voted them with a unanimous sense and gave them all the freedom for them to perpetrate their oppressions on us. I am not,as someone commented, qualified enough to do a political commentary on the corruption in my country, but when I can feel the singe of its effects, its time to do something about it. AND NOW IS THE TIME.

As Dr.Abdul Kalam once said in his famous speech at the EU parliament, that change begins with you and spreads to your family and to your community and to the nation and to the whole world..

“Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character.When there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. when there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world.”

Change from within is vital but a common conciousness of change, can become a tsunami of a revolution.


Indian Tax Return Filing AY 2008-09 – An experience

Welcome back to the part 2 of the tax filing saga….

Enthused by the experience of the previous year, I resolved that this year will also be an online filing notwithstanding the non-recipt of my tax refunds.. After all, if techie guys like me do not support such initiatives, I wonder whether the aam janata will have any such faith it it.. So here we go again..

This year, it was different. The IT website did away with the all the confusing pdf forms.. Whew!! What a relief.. In its place, there were tax returns softwares which were basically Microsoft excel files. I must congratulate the ITO on the macro-enabled regimented excel files which were very easy to navigate. There were like 8-10 sheets in the ITR-2 and each sheet had a toolbox which had navigation to-fro, and also validate the sheet.. The validation function basically is a checklist type business rule processing which checks filling of manadatory fields. Fields are clearly colour coded for entry/non-entry with very informative tool-tips..Instructions like last year left a lot more to be desired though it prvided at least 80 percent guidance.

SO got all the info and filled in the details.. checked the validation.. and lo the XML was generated in a jiffy of an instant. Wait a minute.. You have a minus balance taxes to pay !!!! Aaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrghhhh! More pains and cash flying out from my already depleted bank balance..

OK.. we head to the TIN site which now does online e-tax payments.. Process is simple, click the link, select the bank and challan, fill in the personal details, click proceed and you head to the netbaking site of your bank.. a login and confirmative OK.. you are done with the payment.. Insert the challan details on the excel sheet.. and validate everything, ensure zero balance and you are all set.. XML generated and off we head to the IT website…

On the IT website, the look and feel and comments raised in my earlier post stands true.. Some guys just don’t get it.. One of my 2-3 year old experienced developpers can do a much better job with the screens..

Ok.. that beside, I login with my PAN ID and this time the upload xml screen is simple.. One textbox for the xml file upload and a checkbox with the digitial signature option. Of course, I am not the one to spend 1000 bucks for a digital ID which will serve no known purpose elsewhere.. A simple click and your return is filed and ITR-V ( Acknowledgement) is now generated..

Easy.. isn’t it.. And guess what.. I paid my taxes at 0010 hrs on 26 July and filed my returns online at 0025 hrs .. a little past midnight !!!!!!! DONE. I shall share my this year’s experience at the ITO in a few days after I go to dump the acknowledgement at the ITO..

So whats the learnings from the two years of online filing experience

  1. It has gotten very simple these days.. with a little effort and reduced fear of the internet, any lay person can do it.
  2. The tax returns software has become very user friendly eliminating painful gaffes noticed last year.. That’s wonderful and in the right direction.
  3. Online tax payment…. fantastic.. no more standing at bank counters and wasting paper,ink,time..
  4. It took me more time to collect the data on my credit card payments and share dabblings and to do the math on gains-losses. Filing the Form 16 was pretty similar to last year.. The deductions and exemptions still required some investment in reading.
  5. the whole process from downloading the form-paying taxes – uploading returns, can be done in 2 hours straight…

Some kind words and feedback for those behind the scenes at the IT Dept who have to do this thankless job

  1. Fantastic initiative. Keep it up and keep working hard to improve it.
  2. Information disconnects – The Instruction document has errors ( read the taxes,sucharge,cess section), and references to the sections can have website links for instant clarity.
  3. Website needs to have better user friendly interface to link the IT rules, tax payments, filing options.
  4. Excel based returns software – a great idea.. develop more on it..
  5. Explore the option of the IT/ NIC to issue digital ID based upon the PAN ID. Since the dept has alll the necessary data and NIC has got the infrastructure, the id generated can probably be used everywhere, shares trading, banks etc.. You can probably charge a nominal amount for this.
  6. Consider giving a deduction for encouraging creation of digital ID.
  7. Please tell us how we can check our refunds and who the hell is to be contacted for manual follow ups.
  8. The Assessing Officer section should be clearly provided in the Online section. Not everybody is a super tax practioner freak to understand the maze opf information provided under field offices section.

All in all it has been quite satifying to have participated in this exercise and wish some of my feedback will be implemented.. Adios till next year.. part 3..

Indian Tax Return Filing AY 2007-08 – An experience

Having been on the internet world for over 15 years, it has become second nature for me to resort doing anything and everything using the net. Searching and acquiring knowledge from making whiteboards, to understanding resonance fundas, to exploring esoteric products from China, to viewing the secrets of the nether world, the internet has become a beast that you can’t live without.. All my bills, banking, travel, some shopping, music,etc all are being done thanks to this wonderful life saver called Internet..

I have often cursed our governments for its inability to understand common man’s problems and do something constructive about it. There are projects running into crores going down drains without any qualm of public accountability.. But sometimes changes do happen and that too for good…

The Land records automation, stamp duty payments and other services are improving.. albeit at a snail’s pace. Tax procedures are the worst.. You just PAY. Period. Don’t ask questions. If you have a refund, forget about it or pray for the divine intervention and benevolence of the assessing officer to let you get back some rightful dues.

Taxes, is one of those things that economies are run upon and tax payers run down over. If a honest guy like me, pay taxes for the common good, why can’t I get my fair share of benefits also?? Anyway, thats a different subject altogether .. Lets talk about the changes visible to the tax payer…

Last year AY 2007-08, the government decided that let us give some ease to the tax filer’s pains and introduced the concept of online tax filing systems.. I could not have been happier.. I am sure the very few of us who do things on our own, will vouch for the fact the serpentine queues at the ITO is not just a nighmare, but a life hazaard as well.. Standing in the rain with bunch of papers in duplicate/triplicate and the general chaos all around, make a perfect recipe for commiting cause-to-harm type of crimes. Its a miracle that people are so damn docile that evn if a truck bounces them over, they probably would say ” Chaltha hai re.. carry on.. Aaj to mere ko tax return file karke hi jaana hai..”

So last year I was thrilled to bits and decided to support the government’s initiatives in this techie area. So I downloaded the various flavors of the “simplified forms”.. First hurdle.. you must have Adobe Reader 8 and above.. Ok so the reader is a standard viewer.. No. No.It must be ver that you can fill pdf forms.. Fine..I grumbled like a whining pig and installed the bloatware software which made my machine slow beyond imagination.. Cribbing aside, I started off on the Marco Polo adventure of navigating through the maze of information and formats.. The instruction sheet were average.. OK. Filled in all the data …. now for the great barcode generation.. trying that option is like the government’s gift.. now you see it now you don’t…Fine.. whatever.. I go ahead generate the xml file..

All looks good.. lets go online.. First, the website looks terrifying.. Surely the guys who manage the NIC supercomputer infrastructure or the crack team of scientific officers of C-DAC would have some iota of web design concepts.. you wonder.. well.. keep wondering.. its good, your brain is thinking.. Mine too did.. Registered the PAN id and made a login.. The next steps were a breeze. Upload XML.. sorry no digital signatures.. and bam your return is filed and then take print of the Acknowledgement Form ITR-V.

Now go to the ITO, and just file it there.. At the ITO its a mess as usual.. the only qualifying factor was that less than 10 people in the whole building knew anything remotely about online filing. After about 15 mins of being shunted around various desks on multiple floors.. I reach the returns’ heaven/haven.. The desk is unattended and there are few bold adventurists like me who did the business online.. The guy merely says ” Just keep the form there and take that stamp and stamp it on your copy and carry on..” I am like “What the F******* are you talking about” All my hard efforts and this is the callous respect my work of art gets!! By now you realize that government and IT officers are the Gods who can mess your entire existence if they get annoyed.. So I put a muffler on my lips and do the stamping and disappear into the metro world..

1 month… 3 month… 6 months… 12 months… Waiting… No refund cometh.. My money got eaten up on account of some math processing logic of the computers running at the supercomputer facility… The online portal has no clue on my refund claim either..

Phew!! That was one experience…. Part 2 .. on Filing in AY 2008-09

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