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Dark Clouds From the Property Tax Overshadowing Divali
Posted: Tuesday, October 13, 2009

By Stephen Kangal
October 13, 2009

The 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.

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