“A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be unmeasurable.” said the famous Architect, Louis Kahn. With due apologies to him, I would like to add that it is not the mere physical structure that makes it unmeasurable and outstanding. It is the people behind it. The building may or may not be the best in architecture, the biggest in size or amazing in its interiors. It is the legacy that it carries, the values that it stands for, the knowledge that it spreads and the people that it serves. On all these counts the well-known Gokhale Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) in Bangalore stands apart (http://www.gipa-bng.org/).
I had the privilege of moderating a session here on the 162nd Income Tax Day (24th July, 2022) which was a conversation with the Commissioner of Income Tax, Dr. Sibichen Mathew himself. While he patiently explained the genesis of taxation in India, the contours of evolution of the system over the years, the current filing system, the nitty-gritties of calculating made-easy, the upcoming faceless assessment system etc., what was endearing was his compliments to the Institute known for its quality of public engagement, immaculate time management and its enlightened audience. It was heartening to see general public across ages, across occupations intelligently interacting with the speaker – there was a young member in his 20s and there was also a not-so-young gentleman in his 90s. Both of them sat through the entire session with the Author, Researcher and Taxman, Dr. Sibichen. My role was to engage him in a conversation. Must say it was very enjoyable and informative (https://youtu.be/wbRS0yLDaeM).
Did you know that GIPA prides itself of conducting a session every single day since its inception in 1945 – yes that makes it 77 years in a row including during pandemic when it turned online. The calendar of events spanning education, economics, spirituality, epics, music, literature, history, science, mathematics et al is printed 6 months in advance ! With a variety of topics and a galaxy of speakers gracing the venue, the audience has a bonanza throughout the year, all free of cost. As someone said “Knowledge is discovered collectively, wisdom is rediscovered individually.”
“Ele mare kaayiagi baalabeku” my mom used to say (in Kannada), meaning “live like a seed that is hidden by a leaf”. Be modest. This is how I would describe GIPA and more so its audience who look very simple but are extremely knowledgeable. In an age and time when anyone and everyone is on social media brandishing their so-called achievements, the Institute is truly living by its founding members’ vision and values. Inspired by none other than the famous freedom fighter and thinker Gopal Krishna Gokhale and started by the philosopher & Kannada literary giant, Dr. D V Gundappa, GIPA is a hallowed place. The benign grace and blessings flowing from the portraits of the various freedom fighters, litterateurs, philosophers, thinkers, spiritual gurus weighed heavily on me as I started the session but the serenity of the place, simplicity of the audience and cheerful articulation by the speaker (of a dry topic like Taxes), put me at ease. Like I said, people define organisations and not the infrastructure alone !
“5.82cr is end of the day score”, declared Dr. Sibichen Mathew, Commissioner of Income Tax, CPC. That was the number of returns filed as of 31st July, 2022, the last day for filing tax returns by individuals and other non-audit tax assesses. The number of messages of appreciation and gratitude pouring in from the public, not only for the ease of filing on the income tax website (a few exceptions for glitches of course) but also the prompt helping hand lent by its officers is testimony again to the people that make organisations outstanding. Technology alone cannot deliver. It requires robust processes, committed people and a dynamic leader to achieve success. Only then what Manusmriti and Chanakyaniti stated aeons ago can become a reality “The king should arrange the collection of taxes in such a manner that the subjects should not feel the pinch of paying taxes. Tax must be collected just like a honey bee sucks nectar from the flower without crushing the flower itself.”