Are you aware about where your tax money goes and how it is spent? If not, you should know this, as you have every right to know where a portion of your hard-earned money goes and how it is utilized. We pay taxes in two forms—direct and indirect. Direct taxes are levied on the income and indirect taxes are collected in the form of service tax. As a citizen of India and being an honest taxpayer, you have every right to ask the policymakers where these taxes are spent and how they are put to use.
Right to Information Act 2005
The enactment of the Right to Information Act, 2005 (RTI) is a watershed in the history of India. For the first time, India enacted the law to allow citizens to hold public officials accountable by seeking information under the Act. As per the RTI Act, citizens have a legal right to obtain information from public officials within a stipulated time, failing which, there is an option of penalty and taking the matter to higher appellate bodies. There are some institutions that are kept away from the purview of the Act, such as judiciary and political parties, to name a few. The Act has revolutionized Indian society by enabling its citizens to access information on key issues, except where it is exempted. The act has been instrumental in exposing many issues pertaining to corruption and ill-governance, like the Commonwealth Games scam, Adarsh Housing Society scam, among other high profile cases. At the outset, the Act mandates that public institutions must put information in the public domain.
An Effective Tool at Your Disposal
The Act is very effective; you can hold policymakers accountable using the tool. Using the legal mechanism, you can ask them how your tax money is used and on what services. You have every claim on your money and how it is used by policymakers to implement various policies and schemes. The money is mostly utilized to create infrastructure and carry out welfare functions.
Questions in Question
As a right to ask policymakers, you can ask them some of the following questions related to your tax money utilization:
- What are the services being offered using the taxable income?
- What is the annual tax collection level?
- What are the services that are levied under the indirect tax net?
- What are the outcomes in terms of the investment of taxable money in various public projects?
- What are different welfare functions of the government and targeted at whom?
You can also ask about the audit report from the government of a public project/scheme where tax money has been utilized.
For Good Governance and Transparency
A very vibrant democracy is based on the free access to information. The secrecy of the functioning of the government bodies and institutions has now become a thing of the past with the enactment of the RTI Act. It must be noted that if you won’t get the information, you can hold the public officials accountable by appealing to higher authorities, and even if the information is not provided and grievances are not redressed, you have the option to move out to judiciary for violation of your legal right under the Right to Remedies guaranteed under Article 32 of the Constitution.
Duty to Protect the Image of India
As a citizen of India and with the legal mechanism provided to citizens, the onus is also on all of us to ensure that money that is being collected by the government agencies and ministries is effectively utilized and is not wasted and misappropriated by corrupt officials. Our relevant questions to policymakers can be very beneficial not only to any single person but to the entire country by strengthening its image of a responsible and accountable polity. It is also our duty to protect this image. The Article 19 (2) of the Constitution also gives citizens the right to impart and receive information. Therefore, everyone can use the constitutionalas wellas the legal rights available to ensure that the taxable income is effectively utilized and is not amassed by corrupt practices and going into the wrong hands of corrupt people. Our right to ask policymakers can help making things work and exposeif there is any ill-will taking place. In addition, such actions also make a positive dent by sending the right signal to them to be transparent in their activitiesand make the most beneficial use of the money, which is collectedfrom all of usin the name of doing welfare for the people.