Tax Reforms

Economic inequality and the relationship between state, citizens and taxation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Economic inequality In India, Welfare state and the relation between state, citizen and taxation



  • Economic inequality in India impacts every aspect of our everyday lives, despite the country being a welfare state. As we celebrate 75 years of Independence, the poor citizens of India continue to face increased fiscal burden in the form of inflation and higher taxes, with fewer benefits.

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 “No taxation without representation”

  • This slogan played a crucial role in the freedom movements of India and the United States.
  • The statement indicates the relationship between the state, citizens and taxation.


Analysis: Relationship between the state, citizens and taxation

  • A concept of welfare state: The legitimacy of taxation is derived from the welfare done by the government.
  • Government’s role: The Constitution of India envisaged the state’s role as a welfare one. For that, the government is empowered to administer taxes and their transfer.
  • However, in the year of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, ‘transfers’ are being painted as revadi (freebies) and the lives of poor citizens are being burdened by regressive “taxes”
  • Inflation as a hidden tax: Inflation acts as a hidden tax on poor and middle-class citizens. For instance, at the time of the introduction of the central scheme Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi or PM-KISAN, which gave Rs 6,000 cash benefit to farmers, diesel cost Rs 65 per litre. Thus, fuel inflation devours the cash benefit of this scheme
  • Highway taxation in contrast with the idea of a welfare state: The roadways are meant to be available free of cost, being public goods. However, Privatisation and PPP models, such services now demand a fee. In the financial year 2021-2022, the government mopped up Rs 35,000 crore as toll tax. The same is projected to reach Rs 1.34 lakh cr by 2025.
  • The diversion of funds meant for one to other sectors is an implicit fiscal burden: The road cess that was intended to fund the construction of roads is diverted to other projects, while citizens are charged heavy tolls for the roads, adding up to already toll burdened people.
  • The case of municipal tax and user charges: When citizens pay municipal tax, the municipality is supposed to ensure cleanliness and sanitation facilities. But the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) introduced a “User Charge” of Rs 365 per household to make the city clean, which is 15% of the municipal tax amount.
  • Discriminatory practices of the administration: Flawed administrative rules also impose fiscal costs on the poor and middle classes of society. Administration allows cars to be parked on the road with impunity, but if two-wheelers are parked on the road, they get towed.


Criticism: Discriminatory treatment to rich and poor in the name of welfare state

  • Monetisation of public spaces weakens state- citizen relationship: It is said when people take ownership and responsibility of public spaces, people become citizens. It ought to be remembered that monetisation of public spaces portends to weaken the state-citizen relationship.
  • The nomenclature of government language itself reflects discriminatory approach: When governments provide fiscal help to the poor, it is called revadi, but the same offered to the rich is lucratively termed “incentive”.
  • Subsidised food is advertised while incentives provided to corporates are not well known: Posters for subsidised food to the poor are ubiquitous across India, but no public posters are screaming about the Rs 1.97 lakh crore “incentive” given to the corporate sector under 13 production linked incentive schemes.
  • Flawed mechanism of personal details in the name of transparency: In the name of transparency, the government uploads the personal details of each Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) worker on its website; but the same government does not disclose the names of willful bank defaulters to uphold those ideals of privacy.



  • 73% of the wealth generated in India in 2017 went to the richest 1%, while the poorest half of the population saw only a 1% increase in their wealth. When we celebrate the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the need of the hour is to focus must be to make India economically equal and prosperous.

Mains question

Q. As we celebrate 75 years of Independence, the poor citizens of India continue to face increased fiscal burden in the form of inflation and higher taxes, with fewer benefits. Critically examine.

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