Drums call time on tax dodgers

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 12:00am


Tax evaders in southern India have been told to pay up or face the music: professional drummers paid to play non-stop outside their homes.

Authorities in Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, have resorted to the novel strategy to recover property and water taxes unpaid despite postal reminders, e-mails and phone calls.

Tax collectors accompanied by drummers are visiting chronic defaulters who owe a total of more than 50 million rupees ($9 million).

The first week of Operation Drum has yielded nearly 20 per cent of the overdue taxes.

The city commissioner who hit upon the idea, T.S.R. Anjaneyulu, said recovering overdue taxes was absolutely necessary for improving the city's creaking infrastructure and basic civic services.

As a last resort, the city council hired 10 drummers who normally eke out a living by playing at Hindu temples or in musical troupes.

'Defaulters are paying out of embarrassment. They can't stand the spectacle,' Mr Anjaneyulu said.

'This is working after sops like waiving interest and penalties had no impact.'

The city council has also begun reading out lists of tax defaulters' names at Rajahmundry's temples and sporting events.

Shaming debtors is not a new approach to recovering funds. Indian banks have previously hired criminals and eunuchs to recover loans.