Sunday, May 27, 2018
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GST and Its Politics

By B L Saraf

GST is now a reality in J&K , after State Legislature opened doors for its entry . However , the debate which preceded its entry will not abate . But once relieved of the time constraint , we hope , there will be room for a dispassionate discourse , tampered with rationality , unshackled of the regional biases and free from polemical fireworks . In the pre- entry scenario we observed that , though , the matter had profound economic implications for J&K , yet in the raging debate politics on the tax measure held the centre-stage .

Legal issue is indeed involved . Let the experts deliberate upon . The decision of Supreme Court rendered on SARFAESI Act ( AIR 2017 SC 25 ) may be examined . It could help formulate a view , as Article 370 was discussed to arrive at the decision .

It is the time to have a word on the politics surrounding GST . I N C and NC have joined separatists to oppose the Act . About role of Congress less said the better . In a blind move to oppose the GST the Party felt no qualms to disown its own baby . It is more concerned to thwart PM Modi than about good of the country . Congress party shedding tears on the encroachment of State’s autonomy sounds like “ Devil quoting Scriptures .” Party opened its shop in the State by dispensing with the defining symbols of the State’s autonomy . Substitution of words like Chief Minister for the Prime Minster and of Governor for Sadar-e Riyasaat has been its maiden gift to the people of J& K . This Party must take a stand whether to act national or behave like a Kashmir centric regional party.

NC’s role in opposing introduction of the GST to the State is indeed bewildering . When GST regime was taking shape and made eminently suitable for whole country – including J&K , it was NC’s Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rathar who steered the proceedings - as Chairman of the Empowered Committee of the Finance Ministers . His role to see GST scheme through stands appreciated .

National Conference’s role in subverting autonomy of the state is well recorded . Sheikh Abdullah lost no time to follow the spirit of 42nd Amendment to the Constitution of India , brought about by Indira Gandhi in 1975 , and amended state constitution to extend life of the State Assembly by one year . While as the mischief at the Centre was undone by the Janta Party Government which succeeded Mrs. Gandhi in 1977 and life of Lok- Shaba reverted back to five years , our Assembly continues to have a six year term .

In run up to the Indira –Sheikh Accord of 1975 , Beg – Parthasarthy parleys went on . Mirza Afzal Beg realized that since Union government was providing bulk of the finances to meet the State’s expenditure some financial power had to be conceded to the Union . Sheikh Abdullah agreed with him and the Accord ensued .

It is out dated argument that applicability of GST to the State will erode J &K’s autonomy . The argument has lost the relevance because whole world has become economical and commercially an integrated one . India fell in line in the Nineties of the last century . A new Arbitration and Conciliation law was made in tune with UN CITRAL requirements and made applicable even to J &K . Other commercial laws were fine tuned to meet the international demands . Commercial activity , everywhere , has gone global . So , a law to allow for a uniform tax rate within the country is an inevitability . Even after commercial unification of the world every nation states have retained political and constitutional identity . It could be a case with the states federating with the Indian Union .

It will be foolish to take GST in Kashmir as triumph of ‘ Indian Nationalism’ in the state , as B J P would like to celebrating it . Similarly , there is no reason for people in Kashmir to mourn “ demise of regional autonomy .” It is simple economic measure meant for the benefit of a common man . For the sake of their own credibility , Civil Society members in both regions may understand that is doesn’t pay to be a ‘ rage boy ’ and jump to oppose all and everything which state may devise for the good of its people . A distinction between the politician and a civil society member is highly desirable .

(The author is a Former Principal District & Sessions Judge. Feedback- [email protected] )

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