GUWAHATI: In insurgency-ravaged Nagaland, a civil society organisation has firmly stood up against extortion by myriad insurgent outfits and groups.
Come Monday, the Public Action Committee (PAC) of Naga Council Dimapur will depute volunteers at three check gates on Assam-Nagaland border near the state’s commercial hub, Dimapur. They will prevent truckers from paying illegal money to “state and non-state actors”.
The PAC urged various tribal organisations to lend their support to its fight against the menace.
The collection of illegal “taxes” by the rebels in Nagaland is virtually a way of life. Not just traders, even government employees are required to pay the taxes. What is worse is the money is collected by multiple groups which claim that it is their legitimate right to collect the taxes.
Every goods-laden vehicle, entering the state, is required to pay around Rs.15,000 as “tax”. It is calculated based on the vehicle’s number of wheels. If it is a huge truck, the tax may go up further. Those at the receiving end are not the transport companies or traders but people as they are forced to buy commodities at higher prices, sometimes beyond MRP.
Anti-corruption watchdog Against Corruption and Unabated Taxation (ACAUT) said if the state government was unable to protect its citizens, it should issue arm licences to them so they could defend themselves against “petty criminal gangs misusing the name of our national movement to pursue their vested interests”.
It lamented that despite repeated appeals by various civil society organisations, the state government had not yet been able to curb the menace. It reiterated on its 2013 resolution of “one government, one tax”. The various rebel groups run a parallel government.
In the wake of a public outcry against illegal taxes, the Neiphiu Rio government said on Saturday that it had not authorised any collections except by those departments tasked to collect fees or royalty. It warned that “any person or department”, found collecting taxes illegally, would be dealt with as per the provisions of law.