Bikaasingh was stunned when he came to know that his close friend cum financier, Bishen Singh, was under Income Tax Raid. Earlier when he received a summon from them, Bishen Singh ignored it. He thought it was their usual ritual to issue such summons to complete their targets assigned for the year. Bikaasingh was under the opinion that if a person was paying income tax, it meant he was a wealthy and a worthy fellow. But if a person avoided paying tax, how it would be seen by the society … he was not aware. Was it not a crime to avoid paying tax? ‘Will he be looked upon as a criminal?’
Income tax sleuths suddenly slammed on the doors of Bishen Singh house and immediately closed all doors and exit points, so as not to allow anyone from his family – including the servants and helpers to sneak away. Bishen Singh and all his inmates were aghast with this sudden assault. An issue which he took it very lightly, was viewed as a very big one as though he was a criminal, fugitive. or a terrorist. He who commanded a high position in society would be looked low upon. It was difficult to eschew. ‘A respectable person with high esteem is now reduced to a despicable criminal.’ He could not withstand the downfall. He somehow had to come out of this crisis. The only way could be had to be a total surrender.
He came to the officer and fell at his feet. “Hello sir, I did not mean to disobey your orders. Whatever amount you demand, I am ready to pay. Please, please, leave this place and allow me and our people to go free. Release us from your clutches. You know I command a reasonable level of honour and respects. Your insidious act of raiding my premises gives room for my neighbours to believe that I have huge volumes of unaccounted cash and gold. I don’t have any. You can verify. But longer the time you take to complete, greater will be the rumours that will be floated. My honesty will be buried and these sticky rumours will stay. How can I prove them that I am clean? Like others of my clan, even I should have declared my income as agricultural income. But I did not want to lie. I surrender to you and to your laws. I will pay every pie. Please go away and leave us unblemished. The damage done by your judgement and discrimination in branding me a defaulter … can never be set right. I can never be able to stand upright and got along with my people with my head above my shoulders. I beg of you. Please leave.”
The officer, finding him amenable to rules and also not finding anything worthwhile, asked his colleagues to stop further investigations. He summed up and wound up his findings. He issued a notice for payment of tax dues and added penalties for delayed payment and an additional sum for evading the taxes. A sum of few thousands! His wife and daughter on hearing the tax dues almost fainted. They knew that Bishen Singh was a famous Arhtiya, commonly known as Bichaulia, in their community. They were middlemen connecting the farmers and the actual buyers. Establishing a ‘Producer – consumer – connectivity.’ There were many Bichaulias like him in the town. But Bishen Singh was different. Quite a few of the arhtiyas were far greedier and jealous. They never thought twice about taking commission from both farmers and the buyers, especially the Food Corporation of India. In the sowing season also, they never shied away in giving loans to farmers at exorbitant rates of interest. They easily got triple income with no tilling nor toiling. From farmers they collected repayment of loan with interest and commission for selling their produce after the harvest … all these payments were then reduced from the sale proceeds of their hard-earned harvest. Again, the left-over money after covering all these expenses also was not given to them. Instead, the dealer would supply groceries and cosmetics and such domestic needs for the farmers family. Needless to say, that sufficient cutting was instituted at all levels. Freight charges on bringing the harvest to market yard and taking back the groceries to farmer’s homestead … all borne by the farmer himself. The innocent could never free himself from the clutches of such merciless Arhtiyas. Quite likely that years ago, famous novelist Shakespear visited this place and studied these Arhtiya-people and then modelled his Shylock character in his famous novel.
Bishen Singh was very different from these Shylocks. He belonged to the same clan of Arhtiyas who always lent money for interest. He was indeed an Arhtiya but with a golden heart. He gave loans to farmers only to the extent of their requirements and that too at a nominal rate of interest. He strongly believed that if loans were to be given without interest, it would be misused, forgotten and sometimes leading them to be lethargic in repaying. He was strict about repayment. He was abreast of each and every farmer’s family. He took care of their needs also. Be it education loan, tractor loan, gold loan, assorted consumer loan etc. whatever be it, he lent. He gave top priority for education of farmer’s children and such loans were almost free. For an honest farmer, Bishen Singh was a demi-god, nothing less than a God. Bikaasingh also considered him that way.
Bikaasingh was telling his daughter about Bishen Singh that he was subjected to a raid by Income Tax authorities for tax evasion. She, who was a recipient of his benevolence could not take the news as ordinary. She was sad. There were so many crooks who far richer than him. They were not touched by these Income Tax people. But a demi-god like Bishen Singh was targeted. She told her father, “Pappaji, I am very sure somebody out of jealousy, must have sent anonymous letter to these taxmen and gave some tips. Meant only for harassing our uncle. I know very well. These crooked people always hide their income and declare it as income from agriculture which is not taxable. Do you one thing? A lady and that too a politician, claimed an income of one hundred crore from out of a small plot of land and remains scot-free till date. Such people are never screwed. Only good and honest people become victims. It is a testing time for our uncle. Let us pray and wish for him. He will come out clean.”
Father simply endorsed her view. There were so many crooks in the town. They were loafing around freely not hindered by any taxmen. But a selfless friend-philosopher-guide to all villagers was questioned unnecessarily. After these raids, even if he was proved innocence and come out clean and unscathed could he able to command the same level of respect as before? Reputation gone means gone forever. Damage done was done. Bikaasingh was pondering whether he could do something. A kind soul like him should not be allowed to sink in self pity and remorse. He decided.
He firmed up his mind. “Let these taxmen vacate. Then I will take all fellow farmers and go as one team marching to his place and shouting slogans in praise of his benevolence and show our solidarity to him.”
His daughter exclaimed. “One good news to you. But I will break this to our uncle only.”
He too got excited. “What is it? Let me also join you in sharing it with him. You see, we cannot go empty hand. Let us go with sweets.”
She showed the message she received on her mobile phone. “Congrats for clearing the UPSC papers. Proud of you.”
“Pappaji, now you are not a mere farmer. You are the father of a budding officer. High level officer. IAS grade. All because of our uncle and his blessings. So far, he was a middleman by connecting you with buyers of your produce. Now he has proved to be a middleman of a different kind. He has connected me to the world outside. My untapped talents have been brought out. But for him, my skills would not have been sharpened. I simply owe my success to him.”
Bikaasingh was thrilled and happy. “I shall collect my fellow farmers later. Now let me go and see him with this news. You said rightly. He is Arhtiya of a different kind. He is connecting a rural girl to her bright future. Lifting a poor farmer’s daughter to a much-envied upscale officer. Side by side, he is connecting other girls in this village to a bundle of new hopes and dreams. Get ready. Let us go.
Truly, Bishen Singh was a middleman of a different kind. Soon everyone in the village will come to know.