The one who strove relentlessly to fill in the state’s coffers, himself has landed up in a coffin.
The sudden death of an upright officer, DK Ravi, brings to the focus, the conditions, constraints and challenges of officers chasing taxes, evaders and hoodlums, in general, and upright officers like Ravi, in particular.
We don’t know yet the reason or the cause of his death, but conscious citizens like me ponder what could be behind it. And the most haunting question is, did his crusade cost his life?
While that question is yet to be answered, this throws open an opportunity to ‘look into’ the functioning of the Commercial Taxes Department, which has limited or no access to the general public.
Unlike most departments, the Department of Commercial Taxes is a target-driven one. Every day, every week, every month, officers are asked only one question—have you achieved the target? Believe me. This intense questioning probably doesn’t happen even in multinational corporates.
At least in corporates, executives, while being asked about targets, are also provided adequate facilities. In case of Commercial Taxes Department, which is the most vital source of revenue for a state, facilities are minimal. This actually puts the officers under double pressure—with minimal support, generate maximum. And this pressure will hit the roof from January to March, as the financial year ends. I have seen officers crumbling and breaking down, during this period.
Commercial Tax Department officials deal with the cream of the society, the financial segment—businessmen, chartered accountants and lawyers. While there is much independence in smaller cases, at times, in high profile cases, there would and could be big threats and pressures. Was Ravi under such threat or pressure?
The general public perception is, if someone is in Commercial Taxes Department, he ‘ought to be rich’. While there could be some black sheep, who do indulge in unscrupulous acts, there are so many officers who are really clean. They are also very honest, intelligent, knowledgeable and hard working.
One thing is certain. Like Narayana Murthy of Infosys said yesterday, “Honest people in bureaucracy, politics and business should be protected”.
In case of the deceased young crusader, DK Ravi, the reasons could be only two. If it is a suicide, it could be out of some undue pressure. If it is a murder, it could be from ‘deep-rooted vested interests’ joining hands.
Whatever the cause, it needs to be unravelled. And punitive as well as reforming measures should be taken. Officers should feel ‘protected’. Only then can officers stay upright and daring. If it doesn’t happen, public confidence in the system will lower further. And the system will further degenerate.
The onus to offset things is not just on the Commissioner of Police, but also on the Chief Minister himself, who also controls the Finance Ministry, under which Commercial Taxes Department falls.
It’s a wake up call for all.