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Pay for being rich!

Pay for being rich!
Highlights

Pay For Being Rich!, Post-Economic Liberalization, Western-Imported Consumerism. Traditionally, rich is a four-letter word in this country because riches, wealth, opulence, et al are all associated with greed and acquisition of worldly things.

Traditionally, rich is a four-letter word in this country because riches, wealth, opulence, et al are all associated with greed and acquisition of worldly things. In a land that was used to venerate austerity, simplicity and frugality, any sign of richness in its various manifestations would invite condescending looks from neighbours and onlookers. That was the scene until the country followed the socialist path with the firm belief that equality would usher in an egalitarian society, forgetting the Orwellian theory that some are more equal than others.

However, the scenario has changed post-economic liberalization. Equality has no meaning, after all; an individual’s capacity to earn, accumulate and spend money has no limits. Limiting incomes means curtailing one’s initiative to work more and curbing entrepreneurship, creativity and, of course, spending. In two decades, earnings have gone up; so is the spending on necessary and unnecessary things. More money means not meeting the bare necessities but buying to prove what they are worth.
Fuelled by Western-imported consumerism and inspired by glitzy ad campaigns coupled with mall culture, we are proving ourselves second to none in the world in having the latest gizmos in pockets, gadgets at home and automobiles on the roads. Doesn’t matter how much pot-holed they are, all the top-end car models and their owners or their drivers vie with each other to make their presence felt on the road which is also a public way for bikers, cyclists, pedestrians, animals, trucks, buses and any other unspecified mode of transport.
There is no place other than the road where the mode of transport, personal or public, indicates a commuter’s status. The higher the official is and the richer the person sitting in the vehicle is the more the status he/she commands by way of right to move ahead. For instance, a VIP car gets precedence over others, including ambulances, even at traffic lights. VVIP vehicles with bodyguards, sirens and jammers have to be given top priority. Important and not-so-important leaders are treated accordingly.
Thus, power, whatever its nature may be, commands respect and those who wield it have no qualms in showing it off in as many ways as possible. The rich and the powerful go hand in hand even on the road and nobody minds it because it is the way the system works; or, it is how we have made the system work. Having accepted the universal fact that there will be rich people and poor people and no government or force on earth can level them as far as wealth is concerned, why not make them pay for their riches?
No, it’s not about taxes, which, in any case, they have to pay on their known income, wealth, inheritance, etc. That a few smart Alecs evade these taxes is a different issue; in the same breath, we can also say that some of them are smarter by keeping their easy-earned money in the safe custody of foreign banks. What I am talking about is fines for violating traffic rules with impunity; and if they are caught, showing disdain for authority and rules of the road.
It is a common sight for any road user how he/she is bamboozled into giving way to a big vehicle. Unending honking followed by scorn as if the other person had committed an unpardonable mistake by not allowing the biggie to move fast, however narrow the road is and how much traffic is ahead. Often, the vehicle owners/drivers get away by simply using their official position and, needless to say, the power of money.
If they are caught, perchance, and if they don’t fly into a rage and beat up the traffic cop who stopped the vehicle, they have to cough up the penalty like any other ordinary person, notwithstanding the fact that he was driving a high-end vehicle and a paltry amount of fine was peanuts. He could well afford to pay more for his offence. But he won’t because the law was framed on the basis of the offence committed but not on the offender’s riches. Here, the equality of justice prevails in the true nature of “all are equal before law.”
But Finns don’t think so. A Swedish multi-millionaire was slapped with a fine of $130,000 for speeding in Finland. In Sweden, he would have paid just $615 for the same offence.
The reason for the hefty penalty is Finland issues traffic tickets according to the driver’s wealth. The richer the driver is the more he/she has to pay.
If the same rule is applied here in India, can we expect a come-down in traffic offences and more revenue for the traffic police? Doubtful. When people are used to hide their incomes, there is no way for the police to know how wealthy the driver is, if he is the owner. But a better way of collecting more money from fines is … a little guess work!

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