Is Goods and Service Tax (GST) as Important as Human Rights?


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Goods and Service Tax (GST) has been in operation in France since 1950s. The USA does not have the Goods and Service Tax regime. Canada has the Goods and Service Tax but accommodated with the regional political system. Malaysia launched Goods and Service Tax in 2015 and led to protests and it is settling now. The unified tax regime is a good idea and the discussions have been on for a long time. It is going to be yet another disruption in the Indian economy, which Jaitley, the Finance Minister of India claims that its structural reform in Indian economy. The current RSS/BJP Government is trying to create the atmosphere of reforms, particularly, economic reforms in India.

In an interview, Jaitley claimed that it is difficult to see how this disruption will play out in the economy, but that after a while, the GDP will grow by 2 percent. However, the analysis of the Economist team claims that it will lead to lowered GDP of India by 2 percent. We do not know who to believe and the time will be the test of this policy.

India is a vast country unlike other countries, particularly Europe, which has a different history and much smaller a population that India. Indian federalism is a different type and in India, the states are sometimes bigger than some of the countries in the world. Whatever policies we have to implement, they have to be tailor made for Indian context or else they will backfire. India already saw much bigger a disruption which yielded no gains for the economy and the citizens. Indian economy slowed down because of the draconian demonetisation.

We do not know the outcome and our policy should wait and watch. But the way the Goods and Service Tax launch is planned with much fanfare and at the stroke of midnight tonight India will have is the tryst with the destiny just like Nehru planned the declaration of full transfer of power by consulting the seers and the astrologers. The Congress Party has already tried to criticize the launch by saying that in the presence of the President of India, the Prime Minister cannot launch it. It is not according to the protocol. Whatever maybe the breach in the protocol. The much-hyped fanfare is not needed.

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Important bills must get the attention that seeks to reform Indian society from the bottom up. It has been proved that the general approach to economic development does not work at all. We need to have targeted policies for the targeted problems. India saw the rise in the communal tension and violation of the human rights in the last couple of years. Lynchings have become the public show of gory violence committed against the Dalits and the Muslims. However, the Government is not doing anything to stop these killings, but it is further adding fuel to the fire. India needs strong measures in the lines of Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989, and though it is not implemented it is an important deterrence. Perhaps at this state, India needs Prevention of Terrorism Act to safeguard the Muslims in India. We have to think as to how we can save lives of minorities in India.

We cannot have the country with perpetual internal wars. We must find the creative ways of dealing with communal tension and caste system. It will India’s biggest tryst with the destiny when every Indian irrespective of their religious denominations will feel safe and sober in India. This is what the Constitution of India envisioned and this is what defines true Indianness!

Author – Mangesh Dahiwale, Human Rights Activist

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