A cess for the cesspool

For us, any cess is an excess (without the hyphen), for it touches all aspects of our lives.

It’s been two months since we applied the principles of the Prime Minister’s pet programme ‘Swachh Bharat’ to our own home. We started cleaning it ourselves – thoroughly, I may add – for our maid had resigned (to put it politely)  for better prospects.

She used to come in for one hour a day at odd times that suited her, and carried out what I can call in all sincerity ‘surface cleaning’ (for want of a better word), believing perhaps, that the cameras were on her. And they were – the CCTVs. To her, what she did was apparently more important than how she did.

Taking a cue from the from the rising cost of tomatoes, onions and pulses, she asked for a monthly hike of Rs 300 for our Swachh Mane (clean home), but we decided that we must follow our netas’ example, which we saw on TV time and again, and do it ourselves. We did...and it’s now as swachh as swachh can be. Thank you, netas, for inspiring us. Our only worry is that unemployment can rise if more were to follow this example and it’s quite a possibility given the media coverage of the movement.

Things were smooth for a few days. We were patting ourselves on our double whammy decision – a clean house and a considerable saving, – when we got a rude shock. What we saved on the help was being taken away by the government through a new cess that was imposed on all the services we availed on a daily basis; a small cess they said to help them keep our surroundings clean.

For us ordinary people though, any cess is an excess (without the hyphen), for it touches every aspect of our lives. When we travel, when we eat, when we watch a movie, even when we make a telephone call to complain to the corporator that the garbage has not been picked up – and that happens quite often. Curiously, we pay a garbage cess on property tax too! So this must be an excess.

Interestingly, the government statement mentioned that the small excess would ‘mop’ up 10,000 crores in a full year and around 4,000 crores in the remaining part of this fiscal. I like the use of the word ‘mop’ to quantify the collection. It symbolises the government’s good intentions – to use our hard earned money to clean our surroundings for us. To provide us (but not guarantee us, mind you) a really Swachh Bharat.

Well, 10,000 crores! A mind-boggling figure. With that kind of money I could keep my home and surroundings clean for the rest of my grandchildren’s life. But they didn’t say what they are going to do with the money, except that it would be used to clean up India. Perhaps just like our maid, the what is more important than the how.

I get the sneaking feeling, however, that come April, when I ask them to show me the money or the outcome, (TV coverage can’t be that costly!) I would be shown the broom. Or perhaps not even that for it belongs to a political party that swept Delhi clean during the state polls. May be, I’ll be told to buy a mop!

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