Friday, November 10, 2017

The Indian State As A Tax Terrorist


By Manuwant Choudhary

To tax and to please  is not given to men but to be rationale is but the Indian government under Narendra Modi has lost its way and its mind - completely.

Tax authorities have become the BJPs political wing in targeting opponents as ordered by their masters, helping break up parties or alliance partners to spread the tentacles of the party in power.

Its not that the Congress Party has not misused these authorities but this government does it with a vengeance like never before.

For the ordinary businessman life is repressive at best.

The other day a Patna businessman told me, "I spend my mornings right upto 2 pm working for the Government of India, filling up endless forms, attending calls from tax authorities. After a quick lunch I begin my real work which is to see how I can pay the salaries to my staff. Its only at 8 pm that I have time to think about profits and future growth of the business,"

"Had it not been for the jobs I help provide I would shut down my business...Inhein (showing his employees) pareshaanee ho jayegee..)"

The businessman was an ardent Nitish Kumar supporter with a photo of the chief minister at his home with his family...he even supported Narendra Modi.

But now the Nitish photo gathers dust.

A Tax-to-do list from the Bihar Chamber of Commerce has some 34 items for income tax.

And under GST some 12 GTR's have to be complied with !

The businessman continued, "Taxes are deducted at source but they lie idle in banks and are not given to the Income Tax for which we get repeated notices. Its become our job to ensure that tax credits are transferred by government departments."

Modi's mad decision to demonitise 86 per cent high value currency hurt businesses and halved their turnover for the past one year.

And now the multiple tax GST is a nightmare.

For businessmen selling a product they have to quote multiple taxes for every single item that goes into mking that product..For example a light post will have four GST !

Jay Panda, the Member of Parliament of Biju Janata Dal in Orissa, happily tells students of Columbia University that he could not find a single person opposing Demonitisation in his constituency.

I think he should be really worried. Very, very worried.

In We The Nation Nani Palhkhivala quotes G.K. Chesterson's essay "The Mad Official" which is about how a society goes mad.

The rot begins, he says, when wild actions are received calmly by society.

"These are people who have lost the power of astonishment at their own actions. When they give birth to fantastic passion or foolish law, they do not start or stare at the monster they have brought forth...These nations are really in danger of going off their heads en masse, of becoming one vast vision of imbecility."




Thursday, October 12, 2017

Confucius Left The Next Day..(A book excerpt)


By Manuwant Choudhary

Lord Ling asked Confucius about battle formations.

And Confucius replied, "I have learned about the disposition of ritual vessels, but I have not studied military matters,' and left the next day.

This story represents the disappearance of humanity (Confucius left the next day) from the thoughts and considerations of rulers in the coming centuries of war.

Thomas Cleary tells another story  in his translations of  The Art of War  by Sun Tzu.

Yen Hui, the most enlightened disciple of Confucius, went to the teacher and asked about going to the State of Wei.

Confucius said, "What are you going to do there?"

Yen Hui said, "I have heard that while the ruler of Wei is in the prime of life, his behaviour is arbitrary - he exploits his country whimsically and does not see his own mistakes. He exploits his people frivolously, even unto death. Countless masses have died in that state, and people have no one to turn to."

I have heard you say, "Leave an orderly state, go to a disturbed state - at the physician's gate, many are the ailing.' I would like to use what I have learned to consider the guidance it offers, so that the state of Wei might be healed."

Confucius said, "You are bent on going, but you will only be punished."




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

The Mumbai Local Is A Death Trap 2


By Manuwant Choudhary

Protests and violence are rare in Bombay when it comes to fighting for basic rights.

So in the early 1990s as a junior reporter with the Afternoon newspaper we got news that there had been some protests for improvement of services resulting in police action and violence.

An inquiry followed and a public outcry.

So the Railway Board from New Delhi led by its Chairman...a Mr. Bhatnagar....arrived in Bombay to conduct their own inquiry.

At Churchgate station I notice heavy security and suddenly a group of men arrived.

They were escorted to a special bogey near the Guards Wagon at the end...but suddenly Mr. Bhatnagar turned around and told his officers, "I want to travel like a local...in the general compartment, not even First Class."

The officials protested, "But Sir, they are so crowded you won't be able to get onto the train."

Mr. Bhatnagar, a rather large man, did look worried but persisted, "Why have I come all the way from New Delhi if I don't get the feel of how people travel here?"

So security persons surround one wagon and let the officials in..I manage to squeeze in too.

But as the train left Churchgate the officers asked Mr. Bhatnagar to take a seat.

Mr. Bhatnagar insisted he will only travel like a local would that is `Standing'.

But Sir, all the seats are vacant.

Mr. Bhatnagar, "No I will not sit down."

This went on for a while, until I found a policeman telling me to sit down.

But I wanted my exclusive story and over hear the Chairman so I politely told him No.

The policeman looked angry...he was carrying a rifle...and he literally threatened me to sit down.

Scared I took a seat.

Then the Chairman asked for the files.

His officer replied, "Sir files have been left behind at Churchgate Headquarters."

Mr. Bhatnagar, now visibly annoyed, "I order you to fetch them."

By the time we arrived at Andheri station we noticed a Sepoy with the red files waiting at the Andheri station platform.

Mr. Bhatnagar, "Arre yeh files humare pehle kaise pahunch gaya?"(how did the files arrive before we did?")

His official replied, "Sir, It took the Fast Andheri !"

My newspaper had a decent headline the next morning...a commuter story...our readers were predominantly those who took the Mumbai local.

I felt happy that today we would sell.

Later I went to the stands hoping to see everyone pick up the Afternoon.

But to my shock I found every one pick up the Mid-Day.

Their story in like 7 inches Headline "UFO Sighted."

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Mumbai Local Is A Death Trap 1


By Manuwant Choudhary

I can imagine what must have happened on that foot-over-bridge at Elphinstone Road station a few days ago, because although I do not live in Mumbai, like Salman Rushdie I still call the city My Bombay !

But local trains have always been a part of my painful memory of the city - a gross human rights violation.

Yet people travel every day for hours to come to work in South Bombay or return to distant Borivili late every night...I don't blame anyone for calling it a lifeline.

Because without the local train..Bombay will grind to a halt.

A driver I knew told me once, "Sir, the only day I meet my children is Sunday. Otherwise on all other days I leave for work at 4 am when they are sleeping and get back home at 11 pm..when they are asleep !"

But when the stampede happened I searched for news on Midday - a popular city tabloid.

Its like instinct..as a reporter from Afternoon it had been my job to check competition.

I have commuted on the Mumbai local but mainly for work, not as commuters would because I chose to live illegally in South Mumbai rather than live legally in a suburb and travel every day.

But whenever I did, it was eventful.

Once as we waited for a local, they were all so crowded that we could not even manage to place a toe inside...

But like in all difficult situations there is always a trick.

Here it is.

You don't board a Mumbai local..all you have to do is squeeze yourself between the crowds and the crowds will push you onto the train.

Inside there is no space to even move...sweaty bodies against each other...all you can do is watch someone's tired face, returning from work.

But suddenly out of nowhere someone would hold this thin briefcase and lo and behold it would turn into a table...pressed against the human body..with no support whatsoever.

One of them would pull out cards and the game would begin...3 hours gone !

I just marvelled.

The toughest part was figuring out whether Andheri would come on the right or left. There were no announcements like you have on the Metro.

So you just have to ask someone who travels daily or observe some crowd movement two stations before yours...if you really want to get off at the right station.

I rarely got that right...often travelling farther and then returning....