Dark Clouds From the Property Tax Overshadowing Divali

By Stephen Kangal
October 13, 2009

HouseThe acquisition of profit-yielding immoveable property especially of land is alternatively referred to in divine terms as Dharti Mata. The accumulation of wealth (arth) that is regarded as a boon derived from and conferred by Lakshmi Mata consistent with the laws of good karma is pivotal to all the tenets underlying the practice of Hinduism. The home is a mandir to Hindus. Any attempt or perception of potential desecration or diminution of its sanctity of the shrine will be resisted by Bala (strength). There is a most powerful bonding and almost religious nexus existing between an owner-built home and its Hindu owner/occupants. That explains why land-based Indians generally are not on the move or highly migratory in habits.

The rental-based, tax determination- criteria employed in the property tax (PT) formula to unilaterally reduce and permanently consign Indo-Trinbagonians to the socio-economic status of renters in their own mandirs is culturally shocking, insensitive and socially dislocating in a plural T&T that ought to pay homage and rigidly adhere to the imperatives of our multiculturalism.

The PT a tax that is premised on and derived from an infringement of the fundamental constitutional right of citizens to own property and not to be deprived of that right even hypothetically in order to arrive at PT by a law that will be passed by a simple parliamentary majority. The huge and astronomical deprivation of property pegged at a level exceeding 3000% at times must surely violate some principle of common law or that of human rights conventions having regard both to suddenness and the enormity of the imposition.

Some other more neutral, culturally-sensitive, affordable, reasonable and non-invasive combination of tax criteria must be brainstormed with the people speaking freely to arrive at consensus-formulated, non-imposed property taxation. The draconian PT must be based on and determined through meaningful consultations, involvement and consent of all the stake-holders to enhance the scope for successful implementation.

The proposed PT is being justified in the public domain by spinners of untruths, confusion-causing contradictions and an oft- repeated litany of deliberate falsehoods. The defeat by Ram of the Demon King Rawan who represented and symbolized, evil, ignorance, deception and darkness in Hindu religious mythology is very intertwined in and underpins the Katha (story) of Divali.

The PT is a form of neo-colonialist exploitation/imposition in appropriating a huge quantum of scarce resources (circa $4bn) from the rural periphery to be transferred to the urban centres to finance urban renewal, iron and steel jungles, cash-gobbling CEPEP/URP and other make-work political patronage dispensing programs. It is PNM business as usual- recession or no recession. That is why the banners of “No Taxation Without Representation” and “Axe the Tax” have emerged as expressions of genuine dissent have surfaced among the dissident groups.

The rural backyards are left to fend for themselves through rural neglect. That is the falsehood equity -creating PT that is being bandied and boasted about.

Falsehood, untruths, evil and deception symbolised in the dealings/negotiations of the Demon King Rawan is inconsistent with the philosophical thrust and rich symbolism of Divali. The lights of Divali symbolize the conquest of these negativities. Lakshmi puja is a mantra to prosperity/wealth- acquisition, Budhi (salvation) and happiness underpin and drive the celebrations of Divali universally. Its focus is predominantly geared to symbolically signal the conquest of falsehood and untruths. These are the real but concealed underlying planks and raison d’etre of the PT debacle. The PT in its current clouded incarnation is more notable for falsehood and lies it conceals than what little conflicting information it reveals.

The misappropriation and confiscation of hard earned wealth (arth) by the state from its citizens who regard themselves as beneficiaries of favours conferred on them through divine dispensation by Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi Mata, so that the state can further indulge and continue to lavish their money in persistent acts of riotous living, prodigal spending and indulge in acts of Kama is the very antithesis and does all manner of violence to the Divali Kartha (story). The dispelling of the pall of intense darkness (Divali falls on the darkest day of the year) is being aggravated by the imposition of the PT on the suffering citizenry.

The lights of Divali ’09 will find it very difficult if not impossible to eliminate this double whammy of double-layered darkness looming in the horizon. Accordingly Divali celebrations this year may suffer from the absence of the glamour and glitter, the gay abandon and the cultural outreach. It may not bring the usual traditional level of cheerfulness to devotees and their multicultural friends and neighbours in the face of the imminent fiscal pauperization measure called the PT.

Home owners will be concerned whether by improving/upgrading their homes to welcome the visit of their Goddess Lakshmi Mata they might be punished fiscally or running the real risk of incurring potentially huge increase in the rented values of their property. That of course will have decreased the employment prospects of painters, masons and carpenters and the profits of employment-generating hardware and home improvement outlets and their manufacturing suppliers.

The introduction of the Property Tax in the run-up of the celebration of Divali ’09 is like the sword of Damocles hanging over the minds and heads of all. It is inducing home -owners into the horns of a mental dilemma of whether to improve or not to improve their homes. It is the symbolic resurrection of the return of defeated Demon King Rawan to reign supreme and envelop T&T in a pall of thick and intensifying darkness.

Happy Divali To All Trinbagonians

Trinidad and Tobago News Blog’s URL for this article:

11 thoughts on “Dark Clouds From the Property Tax Overshadowing Divali”

  1. This is how property tax is calculated in India:


    Property tax is a tax that an owner of property (usually real estate) is liable to pay. The amount of tax is estimated on the value of the property being taxed (advalorem tax). Property Tax India is levied on residents by local municipal authorities to upkeep the basic civic services in the city.

    Property, again consists of three entities:

    1. Land
    2. Improvements to Land (immovable man made things)
    3. Personalty (movable man made things)

    Features of Property Tax India

    Indian Property Tax bears the following characteristics:
    # In India, the actual owners of property are liable to pay municipal taxes which is in contrast to that in the United Kingdom, where the tenant is liable to do so.
    # Generally, the property tax is levied on the basis of reasonable rent at which the the tax payer can claim his ownership rights over the property.
    # Property tax in India is paid on a year to year basis.
    # The ‘reasonable rent’ can be ‘actual rent’ if it is found to be fair and reasonable. In the case of non-rented properties, the rental value is to be estimated on the basis of local tax rates.
    # The monetary valuation of property is done by the concerned authorities who often do not function directly under the municipality in order to exercise unbiased estimation. There is a common misconception through which people relate property tax to assessment tax while they are two different forms of taxation. Property Tax relies upon the fair market value of the property being taxed for justification. Assessment Tax relies upon a special enhancement called a ‘benefit’ for its justification.

    The property tax rate is often given as a percentage but may also be expressed as a ‘permille’ (amount of tax per thousand currency units of property value), which is also known as a ‘millage rate’ or ‘mill levy’.

    It’s also calculated on rental value. Will you accuse India as being “culturally insensitive” to their own people?

  2. I am referring to a siutation in T& T in which I live. T&T is different from India in thousands of ways. Sensitivity is a function of the alertness and personality of the different communities in T&T. In India Zamindars own most of the property especially land that they let to local farmers at exorbitant prices. In T&T most agricultural lands including the new two acre farms obtained from Caroni are owned by small farmers themselves. Indians generally in T&T belong to a home-owning class. They have evolved culturally since 1945 and may differ very much from India that is a huge country with enormous regional variations. Indians in India especially the working class accept the status quo that may be caste dominated and sculptured. They are law takers -not makers. In London the Council Tax is determined by, inter alia, the number of occupants living in the property.
    The point that I am making is that such a unilaterally imposed draconian tax imposed in a multiculutal society ought to be based on consulations in which all should have had an input as to the new tax including the huge increases. That is what No taxation without representation is all about. The Resolution attached to one before my previous article makes that recommendation relating to stakeholders’ consultations. The property tax is a very complex matter that is being treated simplisitically and almost flippantly to be introduced by January 1, 2010. The concept of subjectivity and political interference will contaminate the tax-determination process and result in wide disparities in the tax assessment/determination process. This fundamentally new, radical and astronomical tax should have been included in the Manifesto of the ruling party at the last general elections before introduction as a ton of bricks.It is the immensity of the tax after the money done is what has upset so many people after the Gov’t squandered the patrimony in a wild and wassy fashion.

  3. Your reply actually restates your position. By grounding your inital argument in a religious/cultural framework, you are saying implicitly that the tax discriminates against Indo Trinidadians, specifically, hindus. Note:

    “reduce and permanently consign Indo-Trinbagonians to the socio-economic status of renters in their own mandirs is culturally shocking, insensitive and socially dislocating in a plural T&T”
    “The misappropriation and confiscation of hard earned wealth (arth) by the state from its citizens who regard themselves as beneficiaries of favours conferred on them through divine dispensation by Goddess of Wealth Lakshmi Mata”

    I specifically raised the point of India’s property tax regime to show that this METHOD of calculating tax has been applied in a country with 83% Hindu population vs 22-24% in TT. Whether the populations have evolved or not, my agument that since the TT proposal is similar to India,the property tax METHOD is not the “symbolic resurrection of the return of defeated Demon King Rawan”. I agree with the need for wider consultation and a demand for higher quality services. But please consider your arguments more carefully in future as they can be easily misinterpreted. Happy Divali.

  4. Trinidad and Tobago is multicultural, but all cultures need to conform to the rules and regulations of the government. TNT is not many governments within a particular land mass, but rather one government for the two island nation. All of this talk about respecting cultural differences is ridiculous. These cultures should respect the law without trying to be treated as different from any other segment of society. The law is the law and if anyone doesn’t like it, then tough luck.

  5. It should be clear that I was looking at the PT from an Indo-T&T perspective in the context of the rich symbolism and firmly held principles that underlie the Festival of Lights.
    Firstly to address the point relating to the laws of any country. They are not cast into concrete but must and do in fact reflect the predominant values/aspirations of any society especially of multicultural societies. Canada, UK etc have many laws relating to and regulating the rights of ethnic minorities. The 2009 Draft Constitution has a provision relating to the need not to inflame ethnic and cultural sensitivities. Cultural sensitivity/differences are respected in civilised societies. Politicians do this to achieve electoral security objectives. Did you see President Obama lighting a deya in the Red House today and respecting Indo-Americans and their different from mainstream culture?There is nothing sacred nor sacrosanct about laws. Many of the laws enacted by the colonial administartion of T&T have been changed. Even if one man does not like a law it is his right to lobby for it to changed. That is what Martin Luther, Gandhi and others did. Did Nelson Mandela accept the legal status quo about white supremacy in South Africa? It is not tough luck for the ANC who changed the apartheid law in South Africa via the use of a variety of violent and non-violent means and assumed the governance of South Afria replacing the white ruling class.
    With respect to Nigel it must be made clear that Afro-T&T are also made into renters in their own homes but I was looking at the PT from an exclusively Indo-T&T perspecive in the context of the Divali message that is an intellectually legitimate position. The tax-determination process can be premised on alternative less offensive criteria even though since the tax began in 1948 it was based on the rental value of homes albeit very nominal. What about property values, the actual salary of the home-owners who are being transformed into renters, number of occupants in the house etc for tax-determination process? The property tax almost world-wide including in India is collected by local government authorities to provide local amenties and services. Here in T&T it will lost in the Consolidated Fund to fund the UDECOTT debacle, the Torouba Stadium and the iron and steel jungles. The proposed PT is not premised on land as a staring point and land improvements. It is the house that will be assessed fiscally and a rent arrived at. Land area is incidental/peripheral to this new tax.The quotation does not make it clear whether local authorities collect house tax in India. At present in T&T a property owner pays a land tax that is pegged at ten dollars per acre and a house tax that is calculated at 7% of the assessed rental value that is exceedingly nominal. It did not make a huge dent on the pockets of home-owners. But the proposed PT is draconian and extremely punitive to those especially pensioners on fixed incomes who by the sweat of their brows built a home for their families and expect to pass on this inheritance to their childran and loved ones without any disguised reverse mortgage encumbering the house. I am not sure that your statistics (83%) about the Hindu composition of Indian society is correct having regard to the proliferation of sects/ dialects and other religions such Islam, Budhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Chistianity and others. India has the largest Islamic population in the Islamic World.
    I hope that the aforementioned information siffices.

  6. For 50 years, politicians of both sides in TT have been using “culture” as a metaphor for race. You cannot talk about a multicultural nation but base your argument in hinduism. You’re not making a statement about a multicultural nation, you’re accusing the government of racism. If you included examples from our Muslim and Christian brothers, I would understand. You did not.

    You’re not sure about my stats? No problem. Unlike you, I can quote sources. Hindu population in India

    CIA World Factbook : 80.5%

    PBS: 81.3%


    Census of India 2001, Paper 1 of 2001: 83%

  7. There will be no law passed to exclude some from paying Property Taxes based on culture. If that is what the author is advocating, then I wonder why this is being discussed. What is the point? This society goes a bit too far in making exclusions for cultural and raced based interest groups.
    One Country and One law for all citizens should not seem like a extreme request.
    Clearly what would not be fair is if some didn’t have to pay the government for the same services that all enjoy without paying.

    I apologize if this article wasn’t some sort of plea or attempt to raise awareness for why some people should not pay property tax.

  8. w Delhi | Sep 28, 2009 …Thousands of dalits today took out a procession and held ‘Ravana Mela here to protest against the burning of Ravana’s effigies on ‘Dussehra’. Ravana, a mythological character described as demon king in the Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’, is revered by the dalits who worship him as the symbol of bravery and sacrifice. The event has been organised at Pukhraya by the ‘Dalit Panther’, an NGO opposed to the burning of Ravana’s effigy on ‘Dussehra’ celebrated by the Hindus as the victory of good over evil”Making deformed effigies of Ravana and setting them on fire on’Dussehra’ every year hurts the feelings of dalits and the practice should be banned in the country,” President of Dalit Panther Dhaniram Bauddh be banned in the country,” President of Dalit Panther Dhaniram Bauddh said. The dalits in the area have been organising ‘Ravana Mela’ for the past ten years.


  9. Within recent years, the government has over extended itself and now the bills are coming due. The government had been warned about its reckless spending practises but ignored all warning. The proposed tax is a desperate attempt to mitigate the revenue shortfall that was predicted by individuals outside of the government. This being the case, Trinbagonians need to ask the following questions:

    Do most citizens support this proposed tax?

    Do most PNM supporters agree with this proposed tax?

    Do most UNC supporters agree with this proposed tax?

    Would the tax be reasonable and fair?

    Would the rich and wealthy pass on their share of this tax to the working class?

    Would this tax cause an increase in inflation and crime?

    Would measures be put in place to ensure that this new source of revenue would not be misappropriated or squandered?

    Would Manning use this source of revenue to continue with his list of pet projects?

    Once again, I urge all Trinbagonians to put politics aside. The consequences of this proposed tax are too serious to ignore.

  10. This is the reason that all Trinibagonians should always hold their elected leaders responsible for frivilous spending and waste of tax revenue. Now does anyone see how we will pay for the Summit, Government construction Projects, and cars? We must hold them acountable.

  11. Very interesting discussion . I particulaly find it refreshing when folks like Bro Nigel is prepared to take off the glove and do some honest sparing, and forensic cyber jabbing with Uncle K, as it is the only way to move forvard- through honest dialog.
    Speaking of honesty, some might be tempted to say that this proposed new tax policy might be one of the few instances where the poor non land owning folks -predominantly of the African diaspora -was given a political bone.
    One cannot pay taxes for squatters land, and the useless Brazilian favelas that dominate the ‘prestine enclaves’ of John , John, Mt. Lambert, Movant, upper Gonzales , Basilon Street Belmont ,and Febeau Village Lavantille. What a confusing state for the good citizens of our country.
    Hey perhaps we should count our blessings , as there is a Commonwealth conference to prepare for, hmmm?

Comments are closed.