Deccan Chronicle

Thinking Allowed: What about a deaf tax, a dumb tax...

Columnist| Antara Dev Sen

Published on: July 11, 2016 | Updated on: July 11, 2016

Mr Taxman, it's clear that you don't care about our health.

Representational image

Representational image

So you want to super-tax my burger? It’s not enough that you have already heaped more taxes than lettuce on my burger — like sales tax, VAT, service tax and sundry other taxes and cesses — now you want an added Fat Tax too? And a big fat one — 14.5 per cent? No, no don’t give me that "only in Kerala" rubbish. The other states will follow soon enough — eyes popping with greed, tongue hanging out, teeth snapping to take a bigger bite of our junk food. While pretending that all you care about is our health. Well, fine. Take it. Take away the little pleasures of life. We know you can’t bear to see us happy. Anything that we may like needs to be swiftly taxed. From basic amenities like electricity and water, to renting a hall for a wedding, you tax everything. There is always the lurking fear that we may be enjoying ourselves, right? And that must be curtailed.
Want to go see a movie? Pay entertainment tax. Got a nice, big gift? Pay gift tax.

Want to use a stretch of road? Pay toll tax. Want to visit a town across the state border? Pay entry tax. Want any service at all? Pay service tax... You are always there — with your tax scissors, busy snipping off bits of pleasure. Here a snip, there a snip, everywhere a snip, snip. So why are we surprised that you want a bite of our burgers and pizzas too? Because this time you pretend to care. You are like that schoolmaster who says: I cane you because I love you. I care about your future. You say I care about your waistline. I don’t want you to be fat and obese and die of diabetes and clogged arteries. I don’t want you to eat junk food. Eat healthy. Stay away from unhealthy sandwiches and doughnuts and pizzas and burgers. Go for a good old crispy butter dosa or some poori bhaji. Have a couple of crunchy, deep-fried murukkus with your tea, or perhaps a samosa or two. No? Then what about a nice egg roll or a cutlet? And maybe a biryani and korma for dinner? Try a nice ghee-rich Mysore pak or laddoo with it. Wash it down with some soda pop. It helps in digestion.

You see, Mr Taxman, it’s clear that you don’t care about our health. If you did, you would be putting a Fat Tax on all that stuff too. Sugary drinks and sweets are as harmful as fatty stuff and our traditional ghee-enriched sweets and deep-fried savouries are really not much better. You don’t even know what is good or bad for health. You just blindly copy the West. Or was your double standards triggered by your distaste for multinationals? In any case, where will this tax money go? Into the cesspool of taxes and other vanishing matter? Or could it go to healthcare? Our government’s attitude to public health is deplorable. By putting this Fat Tax money directly into public health, Kerala could set a laudable precedent. Anyway, the Fat Tax hasn’t really worked elsewhere. A few years ago Denmark, alarmed by the steady increase in its obese population, had introduced it. And had quickly gone crazy trying to regulate the junk food industry as the great Danes routinely skipped across the border to get their fat food fix. So the Fat Tax was soon junked.

But I must admit that there is some merit in using taxes to discourage unwanted or harmful activities. Like increasing taxes on cigarettes. Not that it works very well, but it does sometimes. So may I humbly suggest some more taxes to discourage other unhealthy and harmful activities? First, the Skinny Tax. If you are taxed for entering into a situation where you harm your health by getting fat, you need to also be taxed for entering into a situation where you harm your health by getting skinny. The Skinny Tax could be levied on landless farmers and their entire families from the moment of birth. It could be particularly high in some places, like Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra, which account for most of the suicides by starving farmers in the state. Last year 3,228 farmers killed themselves in Maharashtra alone — which was about nine suicides a day.

Then the Sick Tax. This would be levied upon people buying food full of hormones, chemicals and pesticides that are sure to make us sick, if not poison us to death. Since most of the veggies and much of the milk we buy are loaded with pesticides, hormones and sick-making chemicals, most of us would have to pay this Sick Tax. So we are all suitably discouraged from buying harmful food. Great! Now go find some outrageously priced organic health food or grow your own. The masses can pay the Sick Tax and eat harmful stuff.

The Dumb Tax. This is for entering into situations that make you stupid. Like being umbilically attached to your smartphone and to social media. Or watching television dramas about absurd families in flamboyant fancy dress with 19th century values fighting over 21st century assets. The Deaf Tax. For entering into situations that make you deaf. Like watching certain TV channels which pass off shouting matches as valid news programmes or hearing your netas and ministers spout too much rubbish. The Mad Tax. This is for engaging with those who steadily make you crazy. This could be levied on most Indian voters 100 days after voting a new government into power.

There are many other taxes we can think of that will similarly discourage harmful and unwanted behaviour. Besides we already have various well-meaning cesses that extract taxes from us whatever we do. Apart from the education cess, the krishi kalyan cess and the Swachchh Bharat cess, we also have the cow cess in Punjab and Haryana. You would be delighted to know that for every film ticket you buy, every alcoholic drink you sip and many ordinary things you do, you would be paying a cow cess in these states. While you pay for better food and shelter for cows you don’t know, in another part of the world, cows are being taxed for their flatulence. Ireland and Denmark tax farmers for their cattle because cow fart is increasing greenhouse gases and causing further global warming. Whichever end you look at it from, there is always a tax to improve your life.

About The Author

Antara Dev Sen is Editor of The Little Magazine. She can be contacted at:

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