ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: Why Not a Salt-Tax?

Weekly Notes from Volume XV, No 9, March 2, 1963.

A Correspondent writes:

In salt-tax, the British had found a type of indirect tax that could bring to the exchequer sizeable revenue without its incidence being felt by anybody to any significant extent. A moderate salt-tax is, in fact, one of the best indirect taxes that can be levied; it is also the most effective and least harmful way of making everybody pay towards the additional defence expenditure.

It was because the salt-tax fell on every one, rich and poor alike, that Gandhiji chose it as an instrument of struggle against the British, much more perhaps for its symbolic value than because of inequity. Then he was not devising an equitable tax structure but looking for something which would be handy in a fight.

Just as opposition to the salt-tax symbo­lised our struggle for independence, its reimposition could symbolise our determination to safeguard that independence.

Salt-tax used to be levied at the rate of one rupee and nine annas per maund. If the rate is fixed at Rs 2 per maund today, it could bring in about Rs 16-20 crores of revenue without its incidence being felt by anybody.

The late Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s views on salt-tax are worth quoting in this connection. While moving a resolution in the Imperial Legislative Council on free and compulsory education in 1910, Gokhale had said

“…I shall be prepared to advocate an extra 8 as. On salt, because I think it is a smaller evil that my countrymen should eat less salt than that their children should continue to grow up in ignorance and darkness, and all the moral and material helplessness which at present characterises their lives”.

Gandhiji would probably have agreed with his political guru!


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