Service game
In his last budget, the FM brought rental of commercial property into the service tax net. Which meant that many thousands of people (including Bunny) who had commercial property to rent had to pay service tax. Before they could pay service tax they had to get a service tax number. In order to get the service tax number they had to fill in a service tax number application form, giving Name of Father, Name of Son, Name of the Holy Ghost, Proof of Residence, including PAN card, voter’s ID card, Christmas card, Diwali card, Tarot card. (But not, thankfully, a MIN card, which the same FM made mandatory a while ago then scrapped two weeks later. Anyone estimated how many man-hours all those MIN applications cost to make, and to whom the contract for printing MIN application forms was given? Be interesting to find out.)

Armed with service tax form, Bunny went to the service tax department. Could she have her service tax number? She couldn’t. She was told, by the service tax department as represented by a Mr Kulwinder, that before she could get a service tax number she had to prove that she was in fact the owner of the commercial property on which the service tax was payable. Why, asked Bunny, should i want to pay service tax on property that does not belong to me but to someone else? Mr Kulwinder shrugged eloquent shoulders, as if to say: How do i know what vagaries of impulse motivate common citizens (such as Bunny) as distinct from sarkari ***** (such as Mr Kulwinder)? Come back with a photocopy of the title deed proving that your property on which you wish to pay tax is indeed your property, ruled Mr Kulwinder. Feeling like a character wandered from the pages of Kafka, Bunny was heading homeward to search for the title deed when she happened to pass the office of Mr Kulwinder’s boss’s boss, a Mr M P Damle. Chancing her arm, Bunny popped her head into the office and asked for a moment of the occupant’s time. This was immediately and courteously granted. When the problem was explained to him, Mr Damle expressed mirthful amazement. What nonsense, he snorted. And promptly proceeded to get for Bunny the elusive service tax number there and then, saving her the needless hassle of making another trip to the department, and also enabling the government to get paid its service tax sooner rather than later. An expat Mumbaikar with not just a can-do but an already-done attitude, Mr Damle rued the time-consuming, unproductive **** culture of north India. How much effort and paperwork could be saved, how much more productive the country would be if only ***** stopped acting like ***** and acted more like the ordinary common(sensical) citizens that they really were, and in fact consciously became, when they, in turn, had to face the barriers put in their path by other babus?

How, asked Mr Damle, as one might ask the riddle of the sphinx or the solution to Foucault’s theorem, did one sensitise ***** to the need for public service, make them aware that they too were part and parcel of this vast public which for so long had been so badly served by so much babudom? Couldn’t the media help?, asked Mr Damle. And that’s when the penny dropped. Contributions are invited to this column from all ***** to submit their suggestions as to how to make ******* more service oriented and user-friendly. All submissions must be accompanied by the following documents, duly attested and notarised: certificate of birth as proof of existence, along with janam patri (in triplicate); true copy of son/daughter-in-law’s driving licence; ration card (expired) of applicant’s grandaunt (maternal); left thumb impression of applicant’s cousin brother; LIC policy (lapsed) of (Oops, run out of space)...

Service game-Jugular Vein-Jug Suraiya-Columnists-Opinion-The Times of India

17 Jun, 2007 l 0040 hrs ISTlJug Suraiya/TIMES NEWS NETWORK