Bollywood’s hypocrisy on terror

There are many things about Bollywood that Indians can proud of. The sweet melodies of Lata Mangeshkar, golden voice of Md. Rafi, the poetry of Sahir Ludhianvi, the all round magic of Raj Kapoor and so on. No doubt Bollywood has enriched India’s culture and the lives of its ordinary citizens in numerous ways even if you completely ignore it’s contributions towards a more progressive and caring society.

But then there are many things about Bollywood that makes any Indian cringe and be ashamed of, especially when overseas. The outlandish plots, weak story lines, repetitive themes, running around bushes singing songs, blatant plagiarism that rips off not just songs and tunes but entire movies frame by frame from Hollywood, questionable ethics, morals and values in getting funded by mafia and its starlets playing side role as concubines for Indian mafia dons in Dubai and so on.

Add hypocrisy to that list.

This hypocrisy has always been around only it comes to the fore with more visibility whenever there is a terror attack from Pakistan. Remember Mumbai 26/11? Bollywood ‘liberal’ Mahesh Bhatt, whose son Rahul was under a cloud for hosting a Pakistani-American jihadi terrorist (supposedly unknowingly) selfishly participated, along with an equally shameless and obnoxious sycophant of the Sonia dynasty,  Digvijay Singh, to launch a book that blamed the attack on RSS! Question them, pronto you will be labelled ‘fascist’.

Now we have the likes of Karan Johar, Anurag Kashyap and other Bollywood worthies, joined by equally ‘intellectual’ leftist elites and media divas have donned the convenient liberal mask to question why Pakistani stars should not be allowed to continue working in Indian movies. They pretend to cast themselves in the role of ambassadors of love, affection, brotherhood and what not, conveniently forgetting their choices often boils down to business considerations.

Let’s face it – the decision to cast Pakistani or German or Rwandan actor or a porn star from the USA for that matter, is purely a commercial one, with enormous gains accruing to the Producer, Director and others, should it ‘click’. When that is questioned for genuine reasons, instead of facing up to the reality, our Bollywood tries to fool others into believing they are liberal heroes trying to build bridges of “friendship” and the rest of us are uncouth fascists out to spoil the bonhomie.

Useless questions are asked and given prominence by allies in the media like Barkha Dutt – Is Fawad Khan a terrorist? How can banning them help Kashmir? Did anyone ask Is Barry Richards or Graeme Pollock a racist bigot? How is banning South African cricket going to help its poor black people?

Interestingly, the very same leftist “intellectuals” in liberal mask that now scold us ordinary Indians as illiberal fascists and fanatics for calling for a ban on Pakistanis actors, proudly participate in “Boycott Israel” campaigns, even protesting against harmless orchestras and musicians. No too-clever-by-half questions such as “Will boycotting Israeli Philharmonic orchestra solve Palestinian problem?” etc.  Then the roles are reversed. Anyone questioning the ban become a fascist.

Obviously killing Jews is kosher and killing kuffar Hindus is halal presumably because it suits China’s strategic interests. As mandated by the “taller than mountain” friendship of Rawalpindi and Beijing, our leftist elites see absolutely no issues with jihadi terrorism and boycotts are only justified if it punishes its victims.

Of course none of these leftist comrades question their fellow travelers who impose bans on anything that doesn’t please their whims and fancies and of course, Marx/Mao ideologies. Acharya Ramdev cannot speak at JNU, non-left professors cannot survive in Bengal, historians that don’t take instructions from Alimuddin get purged out in PolPotist purges. All the while the noisy ‘freedom’ brigade will collect their rewards and frequent flyer miles and stay silent.

And since it suits their own commercial interests, our Bollywood moghuls, experts in the art of make-up, farce and hypocrisy, quickly wear the liberal mask and join our leftist elites in questioning the patriotism of the rest of us, as if only their brand is the original one!

 

Is Modi fixated on terror?

No one can have a quarrel with India trying to isolate Pakistan globally using its considerable diplomatic and increasingly lethal financial muscle. But then there comes a point when we have to ask – Is the government wasting too much time on this ? Worse, can it be counter productive?

At the outset, it has to be said that using diplomatic means is a lot better (for now) than using military means. Having said that, let us think through some of the recent events.

Excessive obsession with Pakistan is actually bad for India as we are seen as vulnerable, weak and end up getting bracketed with a failing jihadi terrorist state that survives on handouts from its benefactors.

A strong person, hurt in a relationship, shrugs his shoulders and moves on. A strong Mafia don goes for the kill and makes sure the lesson is taught well. A strong nation extracts its revenge too, but doesn’t wail and holler every time someone passes by and lends a shoulder.

What can netting Masood Azhar or Hafiz Saeed accomplish? Simply replacing them with another beard? Is Pakistan running out of fanatic barbarians? Pakistan should be clearly told it has made its choice and will have to pay the appropriate price. Nothing more.

Are we saying don’t go and take them out like Uncle Sam did? By all means, do that! But don’t obsess over it and try score small semantic victories in joint statements.

India should simply issue one statement – that it will not talk to Pakistan until there is clear and present evidence of action, change of course and reserves right to use ANY and ALL options to deal with the issue. Don’t talk about it unless asked about it, even then simply refer to the earlier statement.

As far as China goes, there is so much we can learn from Chinese diplomats and their clear statements. Why can’t we simply say “We would like to China to see long term value in the relationship with India” or some such thing that simply puts the ball in PRC’s court and sets a price for recalcitrance?

Lobbying with super powers should be quiet not noisily conducted through the press.

We should also selectively loosen curbs on actors, musicians etc., who are not jihadist fanatics. That again conveys strength not weakness. This is not a call for large scale pappi-jappi or Wagah candle kissing. It also prevents Pakistan from raising the “Islam is in danger” bogey.

And for God’s sake can we avoid those “felicitation ceremonies” over the cross border “surgical strike”? It reeks of cheap Bollywood drama.

May be Narendra Modi, Parikkar and Amit Shah should sit together and watch the first two seasons of Godfather. There’s a lot to learn from Michael Corleone.

Or they can try and listen to Teddy Roosevelt’s ancient wisdom – speak softly, carry a big stick. Not the other way around.

 

 

The “surgical” strikes

First let us clear some basic doubts. The term “surgical strike” is not yet another archaic, 18th century English word that Indians and only Indians use (“Eve teasing”, “Textbook launch” etc).  A quick search of UK Ministry of Defense web page turns up a few instances. But the super duper trigger happy macho US armed forces, for all their prowess, have unfortunately not carried out even one such strike. Their website returns blank if you search for “surgical strikes”. This should tell our Govt PR men something. Better use terms Americans (and English media dominated by them and their lingo) understand.

Having discussed the most important aspect of the strike, let us turn our attention to less important ones. A few salient facts stand out.

  1. This tight slap comes with free massage service too. Modi government is not really calling this an attack on Pakistan or even Pakistani Army. The specific reference to telecon with Paki DGMO in the presser (plus the confirmation that nothing else was planned) was designed to reassure international community as well as perhaps Pakistan itself – it is up to you to treat an attack on jihadi terrorists as an attack on your state.
  2. This gives Pakistan too a chance to deny everything and pretend nothing happened. But then like alibis (“I was never there”) in murder cases, that also preculdes them from using other defenses (“He hit me first, it was self defense, etc etc”)
  3. It may even offer Modi a nice chance to get back into the talks mode and de-escalate. The jingos have been taken care of. This is why repeated noises by likes of Praveen Swami that more or less imply strikes never took place look not only silly and foolish but also counterproductive.
  4. It sets a new bar no doubt. But alarmist opinions (like that of S Varadarajan at The Wire) that this will only force Modi to take even more violent action in future are silly. Because India was clever enough to wait for time and place as well as choose the strength and direction of the blow. Not only that PM Modi even addressed Pakistani citizens directly from Kerala, telling them clearly they are not his enemies. All this means, should another terror attack happen, public opinion will give Modi the time and space as well as let him choose the weapon to retaliate and not demand instant mob justice. In that sense, this “surgical strike” may have done more good than harm.
  5. No one think this will put a stop to Pakistani terror tactics as R. Jagannathan points out succintly in his brilliant article. But what was earlier a free ticket to kill kufr Indians is now a priced product with the usual “prices are subject to change without notice” condition in fine print. This may not stop a jihadi fanatic ready to die for “Islam” but it will give their backers and handlers (who are not that keen on dying, rather look forward to retiring in peace with their fine Scotch, kebabs and Chinese LED TV screens) in the Pakistani deep state something to chew on.
  6. Combine that with the muscular stand on Balochistan and the strident opposition to CPEC, it will also send a signal to China. Happy hours are over, peak period pricing applies. Given their commercial acumen, it is a matter of time before they pull out their calculators and do the maths. Given the size of the reward booming Indian economy offers to demand starved Chinese manufacturers with excess capacity, we have much better chances of seeing a gradual change in behaviour than aggressive counter measures. China will even lean on Pakistan to keep a lid on their boys at least until its own economy steps back from the precipice.
  7. There has always been a lot of “Oh God! They have nukes” arguments are slowly loosing their shine. Interestingly all our leftist geniuses that argue that Pakistan is perfectly entitled to blackmail and we should simply roll over and play dead do not seem to suggest a similar course against China! After all the dynamics are almost exactly the same. Although a few of their kids have been sent overseas to safety, as we mentioned earlier, the Pakistani elite loves life, and does not want to be vaporised in their homes. This is obviously not to recommend a reckless course, but to be ready to raise costs and not yield to blackmail without worrying all the time about a nuclear wipeout.
  8. The world will understand India means business and will now work to restrain Pakistan. This completely reverses the earlier game where Pakistan was free to kill and maim and it was the Indians that were told to be “restrained”

Let us see how the situation develops and hope enough planning is being done to exploit the new momentum as well as take precautions.

 

PM Modi’s Balochistan play – foolish or master stroke?

Prime Minister Modi referred to Balochistan (in addition to Pakistan held areas of J&K) more than once in recent days. The mischievous “thanks” to Baloch people for reacting to his first remark will probably make a bigger splash given the occasion.  Clearly Modi is going where no Indian Prime Minister has gone before.  Even foreign ministers and secretaries were much more careful in the past.

So what has changed? The silly provocation by Pakistani Ambassador Basit in his own speech is no excuse since it happened AFTER Modi’s first remark. In any case a remark by a junior official is not worthy of a Prime Ministerial reply, that too from the Red Fort. A similar tough presser by MoEA babu would have been seen as sufficient.

We can look at two possibilities:

  1. Modi is being jingoistic, provocative, reckless and foolhardy because that is exactly the sort of person he is.
  2. There has been a SWOT analysis and conclusion is, it makes no sense to carry on respecting red lines of the past. The new approach will bring better benefits even counting the costs. (Mind you, we are not certifying this to be correct as only future can tell)

Dismiss the fear mongering

Obviously the left liberal media will go for Option 1 and one can expect scathing attacks. Sagarika, Barkha, Sardesai, Mihir Sharma, Bhadrakumar, Varadarajan, Venu and others will write lengthy articles explaining why this is a dangerous provocation and how it will lead to more terror attacks in the future apart from giving us no benefit.

We can dismiss most of their gloom and doom analysis and fear mongering with following facts

  1. Pakistan has anyway been blaming India, even before Modi took over. Remember the effort to sneak in Balochistan during MMS era? Now Modi is simply choosing a time and place of his choice to do so.
  2. Nothing has stopped it historically from interfering in Punjab, North East or helping out pretty much every criminal or terrorist gang, petty or big that is ready to wage war on India. Even Srilanka was not spared. Nor is it going to stop if I K Gujral were to come back to life as PM. Now it may get smoked out in the open just as its nuclear program was thanks to ABVs move.
  3. Fear cannot be the basis of foreign policy of a nation o 1.25 billion. Nor can one sided unrequited love and affection of the Bollywood variety.
  4. The same liberals tell us Pakistan is not to blame for terror, it cannot control non state players. So why bother?

Why do we think this is a great move?

  1. First and most important reason is the cause deserves support. Pakistan’s atrocities there are well documented.
  2. It can be a great way for Narendra Modi to extinguish concerns that he is anti-Muslim. Obviously lots of Balochis will sing his praise now. Given his visits to KSA, Gulf and aggressive Afghanistan policy, this will send clear and unmistakable signals to every Sunni Muslim, Indian or otherwise. If he can follow that up with sensible Palestinian policy, balancing Israeli sensibilities, that will seal this aspect.
  3. It may shift the entire fabric of the dialog. Pakistan will sure go around saying “look we were right” but no one believes them anymore anyway. Now at worse, if there’s a deal on Kashmir, we can pedal back on Balochistan and the generals can go around claiming ‘victory’. Makes a lot of sense.
  4. It cannot make our terror problem any worse than it already is given its dynamics as well as continued support from Pakistan over decades regardless of who is in PM chair. Pakistan cannot simultaneously pretend it cannot control terrorists yet argue such provocations can lead to more terror.

But hopefully PM has considered following aspects and has plans:

  1. The Iran angle – Iran’s own Baloch problem will mean it may not like India supporting this cause. However, this can be managed if Baloch separatists play along and keep focus on their Pakistan aspect of the issue (which is much bigger in any case). Iran will understand India’s main motives.
  2. The pan-Islamic angle – this can be a twin edged sword. We have seen the ‘good’ side earlier. But Pakistan can play the “islam is in danger” card although this card has lost practically all value these days. Managing KSA, Gulf reactions and opinions is the key.
  3. The China angle – Beijing has obviously a lot invested in Pakistan even before the $45b CPEC and Gwadar. Those investments are facing diminishing returns. Yet it would hate to see it overtly sabotaged or completely wrecked by India’s moves. Pakistan has been crying from rooftops that India is sabotaging CPEC on covert basis even before Modi. This could be a tough nut to crack. Here again, India’s message could be that China’s should de-focus from a failed state of fanatics, and it has far more at stake building stable relations with India which can offer a safer saner path to the western oceans too. But this may not be enough. We have no magic solutions here. Again, China has not been sensitive to India’s own red lines anyway so it doesn’t change things much.
  4. The West – which essentially means Uncle Sam. US cares two hoots if Pakistan stays in one piece or not given its frustration over Afghanistan and its reduced reliance on oil and gradual “look east, forget Middle East” foreign policy shift. But that doesn’t mean it will like India gain upper hand in this region. We need to find people like Ambassador Blackwill who articulate our point and are not shy to redraw borders if it suits their agendas.

Let us hope this is not one of those one off remarks that gets forgotten after a while. And hence not a planned shift in strategy, right or wrong. This will be disastrous as it will kill Baloch sympathy as well as confirm the left lilberals’ opinion as to Modi being a reckless jingo.

 

Homage to Dr. Kalam

India, as Churchill once described, is not a country but merely a ‘geographic expression’, like the equator. While we may curse Churchill for his bigoted views on India and Indians, bit of soul searching will uncover the harsh truth. We are one country yes, but then we don’t often think or act that way. Can’t be blamed. We speak so many languages, we often don’t even know which one the other guy is speaking, let alone understand it. There are, yes, a few things that bring us together in joy or sorrow. Strangely, cricket, a sport passed on to us by the colonial Brits of Churchill type is one.  I am having a hard time thinking up another, not counting hypothetical scenarios like a Pakistani or Chinese invasion. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for all his pan Indian appeal, hardly strikes the same emotional chord deep south, be it positive or negative.

But then we are forgetting APJ Abdul Kalam. A man from deep deep south, not really comfortable with Hindi, not even blessed with a pan-Indian look, a pukka ‘Madrasi’, yet effortlessly at ease anywhere in India, especially when he is with kids or youth. More importantly, seen as the ideal Indian, “one of us”, or “ours” by so many different sub-nationalities, ethnic groups and tribes that populate our vast land mass.

Is it because he was a “missile man”? Is it because he was behind India’s nuclear bomb? Perhaps. But people knew there were others too that contributed in these fields. Because he sold dreams to kids? Lots do. He was apolitical? Perhaps. Because he played the veena? Or was a vegetarian? Not really, not many knew, even fewer cared.

At one level, it is very hard to nail down the precise factor or set of factors that made Kalam so popular, so unique and so adorable. But if you really think about it, it is not that difficult to understand his appeal. He had so much of each of the good traits we have so much difficulty finding elsewhere, that too in one person.

He was, and remained to his last breath, a simple man, of simple tastes and demeanor. He was humble, despite achieving so much. He was incorruptible and clean. He was secular yet didn’t wear it on his sleeve and more importantly didn’t need to get that certified and endorsed by the established liberal elite by attacking the majority faith. He didn’t think much about superstitions but didn’t go around insulting others’ faith simply to prove his scientific spirit. He was rarely, you could say never, seen angry. He genuinely believed in India and its capabilities and had a heartfelt desire to see it do well. And he communicated that in simple words, whenever, wherever he could.

No wonder he was universally admired. Was he?

Let us correct ourselves a bit here. He was not universally admired, He was despised too. By who? By the Marxist brigade, by corrupt political dynasties and by the pseudo liberal leftist intellectuals. Such was the depth of their hatred, they did not even let his death stop them from expressing their ‘opinions’. That he was ‘overrated’ and just a ‘manager’. Sentiments shared only among these super brilliant intellectuals and their jihadi terrorist bosom buddies across the border, such as A. Q. “Xerox” Khan.

When he was elected President, he was supported by all but the Marxists who could never forgive him for giving India the bomb. After all the only Asian nation that had it was China, their ideological father-land. Their bomb was the ‘proletariat’ one. How dare this man challenge that hegemony? He was hated too, by the Sonia Gandhi family and by politicians like Mulayam Singh for not being an ‘ideal Muslim’. One that is rabidly communal, doesn’t think beyond his community, one that is easily fooled by the ‘secular’ politician who will be his savior against his vicious Hindu neighbors. One that can be a vote bank to be exploited. In other words, for not being a Bin Laden, Owaisi or Azam Khan. In their eyes, he was a danger. If every Muslim could think and act like him, their days are over.

They had their revenge. When time came to offer him a second term, for which he was more eligible than any other Indian, he was rebuffed. Yet he did not sulk, throw temper tantrums or give out nasty interviews like Amartya Sen. He simply went back to doing what he always loved to do – inspire young Indians to think, dream and achieve what is their’s by right. India had a President it was proud of and now it was back to the “good old” days. A President chosen for loyalty to one family, obedience and one that can never be a threat.

Unlike dynastic domestic servants who cleaned out the palace of its gifts, who polluted, soiled the office Abdul Kalam once graced and brought honor to, he only carried a couple of suitcases of personal effects with him when he left the Presidential palace. But when he left this world, he carried with him the genuine affection, tears and sorrow of millions to whom he was the ideal Indian.

RIP Dr. Kalam! One day we may be worthy of your hard work, dedication and service.

 

 

 

10 steps to hassle free Income Tax regime

Background

Parliament has just passed a Black Money bill that deals with overseas assets and income. Our Finance Minister has promised another one for domestic Black Money. That makes it three laws to deal with Income tax alone. This can benefit people that depend on complex laws for a living such as accountants and lawyers but will be a huge drag on the economy. It will also add to India’s dubious reputation as a heavily regulated, bureaucracy infested economy that is hard to do business in. It will obviously frustrate PM Modi’s ambitious agenda of providing ‘sabka vikas’ or growth for everyone. If investment is subdued there can be no growth.

We are not just here to criticise, we can also offer useful suggestions. In that spirit here is a shot to do list for the Hon Finance Minister:

Ten steps to tax nirvana

  1. Flat, regionally competitive Corporate tax rate with almost no exemptions. We do not suggest competing with tax haven economies like Hong Kong. Perhaps a 20% Corporate profit tax with practically no exemptions other than for startups (first 3 years) and perhaps for green technology investment.
  2. Get rid of MAT. Makes absolute no sense at all.
  3. Get rid of either TDS for PAN transactions. It adds to paperwork with no benefit to anyone. If there’s PAN, there should be no need for TDS because the assessee will pay Advance tax if necessary. If he doesn’t there is always ways to go after him.
  4. Monthly tax payments Instead of quarterly advance tax, tax payers can be asked to pay monthly tax on estimated revenue for the whole year. It should be taxpayers’ responsibility to keep the tax in sync with income such that at end of year deviation is less than 10%. This will even out government revenues as well.
  5. Get rid of dividend tax there is no justification for taxing income again, discouraging incorporation of companies keeping huge sections of economy in the hands of unincorporated entities.
  6. Tax share market gains and all capital gains, including property gains at flat rate, preferably 20%. This should apply to everyone, be it FII, local investor, whatever. People don’t mind paying tax on windfall profits.
  7. Compete to keep laws simple Check out tax laws of highly competitive nations like Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand etc., and ensure our tax laws have as few sections as possible, if not lowest. There’s no need to setup committees with ten year plan, just copy and paste! There’s no patent on these laws!
  8. Clear, simple definition of what’s income and what’s allowed expense. If this is done there is no need for silly laws like Fringe Benefit tax because amount paid on behalf of someone become that someone’s income automatically. If my company pays my club fee, that is my income.
  9. Don’t tax foreign sourced income. Income earned outside India by resident taxpayers for services done from India should be tax free. This will encourage huge outsourcing market for Indian professionals (freelancers, small outfits) for everything from web design to remote support, remote training, software design, what not. This can be applicable to individual tax payers to start with. In addition, limits can be kept at reasonable levels, say US$100,000 per year. Remember, a lot of this income gets taxed overseas anyway thereby limiting what GOI can milk out of this.
  10. Introduce Estate tax but with high limits and reasonable tax. Say limit at Rs.5 crores and tax at 20-30% would be progressive, fair and exempt most middle class. It will also encourage meritocracy.

Hope our FM will consider these!

 

Black Money Bill – cure worse than the problem?

Loksabha has passed the so-called Black money bill. The formal short name is Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets Bill. While no one can question the basic intentions behind the bill, it is sad this bill too follows numerous others that simply complicate the matter, don’t solve the problem and in fact make it worse in many ways.

Incidentally many of these points were also raised in an excellent speech by Deepender Singh Hooda, Congress MP from Haryana, during the LS debate on the bill.

Problems with the Bill

1. There is no need for a separate bill, IT Act is there already

There are over 85 sections, with numerous clauses and sub-clauses in the bill. This will delight many lawyers and Chartered accountants and ITOs but will be a nightmare for ordinary people. For all that, it accomplishes nothing that’s not already there in the IT Act or can be inserted in one paragraph.

Is it legal to not disclose income, whether local or foreign? Of course not! It is legal to hold assets in India or overseas out of income not taxed at all? Of course not! As Mr. Hooda rightly pointed out, such disclosures (and penalties) are already there since 2013. Then what good does this law do? Your guess is as good as mine!

2. Vaguely defined ‘satisfactory explanation’ clause gives ample scope for harrassment

The law says overseas assets held by resident taxpayers (NRIs thankfully exempt, but more on that later) for which ‘no satisfactory explanation’ can be given. Now who’s to be satisfied? ITO of course. What is ‘satisfactory’? No one knows.

Obviously for rent seeking corrupt ITOs, or those simply desperate to meet quotas and targets or earn promotions, it is very easy to issue a demand notice claiming to be unsatisfied. This is even for assets properly disclosed!. The poor taxpayer then has to fight the system or go to jail. At best he can waste months and years of effort, huge fees to accountants and lawyers before he can escape the law. And what penalty applies to the crooked officer that started the whole process? Nothing of course.

This is exactly how foreign investors end up with irrational, huge tax demands on MAT and other matters, often running into tens of thousands of crores of rupees (of which nothing is really collected) after years wasted destroying India’s investment climate, image and economic prospects. Once the law is there, the rules are, it will be physically impossible for any FM, however smart or well meaning, to stop abuse.

As with Section 498A and so many other laws, this will be misused to generate fees and bribe. And there will be no control other than goody goody assurances by the Hon Finance Minister which can be written in a sheet of water.

3. Big blow for NRIs, a community that supported NaMo consistently

Even though NRIs are exempt, many that plan to return to India will have to think twice. This is because a crooked corrupt ITO can simply dismiss their explanations and seek to levy 120% tax on whatever assets they disclose upon return, simply alleging he is ‘not satisfied’ with the explanation. And become a hero internally for standing up for the exchequer. Either you pay through your nose in bribes or be prepared for years of court battle.

Most of the income earned from such wealth is taxed somewhere or the other and it is likely to be eligible for double taxation relief. Most countries, other than few like Singapore or Hong Kong that attract legitimate wealth through well run capital, property and other markets, have high tax rates. This means, nothing much will flow to the Indian Government anyway. This is because such tax is only due if the tax paid overseas is less than Indian taxes.

4. Easy for real big fish to escape the law, even legally

Anyone with substantial overseas income or assets, that too earned illegally can easily ensure one of his family member is a NRI and keep all wealth in his / her name. It is so easy to purchase such residences in numerous nations, perfectly legally. It will be impossible to go after such individuals. In any case these people are not going to declare assets in any return and if by some miracle the IT can find them and prove the case, they can easily do so without this law as well, under existing Income tax laws.

5. Doesn’t help with vast amounts of black money inside India

That should be clear from the title of the bill itself. But then our minister has a fantastic cure! Another law, presumably of equal length, complexity and viciousness will be enacted for that! I can see many ITOs and CAs licking their palms in anticipation!

6. Doesn’t address the structural issues that help generate black money in the first place

Some of the structural issues have been addressed, although slowly and over a very long period of time. Ridiculously high tax is obviously the first one. We had urine drinking morons running this country that argued 98% tax is ‘reasonable’. Thankfully today they are a lot better.

But there are many other sources of black money – the mining, real estate (land), government contract sectors together will probably account for 90% of the black money generated. If nothing is done to stop this, the money will sure find a way to end up in tax havens abroad. If the government does reduce the generation, it will find that such draconian laws are completely unnecessary.

7. Reflects sad state of Indian politics in general. Draconian laws too easy to pass. Real solutions never found

It is the same with so many other laws, be it anti-dowry, anti-harassment, anti-Dailt atrocity etc. Draconian laws get passed because no one dares to oppose them and risk tarred with a black paint. They then become nuclear weapons in the hands of corrupt cops, officers, lawyers and others who simply use them to generate revenue.

Many lawyers openly confess that their first advise to any woman coming with a divorce case is to file a Section 498A complaint. The cops then merrily go and arrest anyone and everyone they can find, including mothers, grand mothers, uncles, aunts and relatives. This then generates huge revenue for them, lawyers from both sides as well. Little wonder when attempts to dilute the section were made, the biggest howls of protest came from lawyers!  It is almost similar story with the ‘atrocity against Dalits’ Act which shifts burden of proof to the accused! Just last week a judge of the Chennai High Court threatened to use this very act against his own fellow judge, that too the Chief Justice, for difference of opinion over a routine matter of appointments, underscoring the ridiculous extent to which this law has been misused.

While Mr. Hooda and Shashi Tharoor made good speeches, they could not bring themselves to vote against this bill. Just as BJP had trouble voting against the ‘draconian’ land bill they are desperately trying to dilute now.

8. A big blow to the pro business pro middle class image of Modi regime for little electoral benefit

Forty plus years of Nehru/Indira Gandhi style socialism and the ridiculous nonsensical laws, rules, notifications and regulations as well as paperwork spawned by them have spoiled India’s image as well as its investment and social climate for long time to come. It has also kept generations of Indians poor and deprived. Many educated Indians were hoping for big things when they enthusiastically endorsed Narendra Modi and his vision.

In this context, it will be good if Mr. Modi and Arun Jaitley sit together and think carefully about such bills and their impact on their own image as well as India’s.

They may find that it is better to expend their enormous energies elsewhere.

 

 

Salman Verdict brings out quintessential liberal Indian

The verdict

The verdict is out. Even as poor under trials languish in prison for decade or more, serving time far exceeding sentences for crimes they haven’t committed or proved to, Mumbai High Court chose to set aside all other business to hear his bail appeal within minutes. He got bail same day and now barely two days later, the sentence itself has been suspended.

Pic1

 

Now that ‘mission keep Salman out of jail’ accomplished, one can safely predict our justice
“system” will revert to its usual glacial pace, delivering a verdict sometime after Salman turns 95.

Be that as it may, the case has brought out yet another example of the hypocritical attitude of the liberal crowd or at least the Bollywood liberal crowd.

Bollywood Hypocrisy

Bollywood often seen as the major weapon of India’s soft-power, is known for its blatant plagiarism, low quality, hypocrisy, anti-Hindu hatred, pro-jihadi sympathies wrapped up as liberalism and sheer insensitivity. A lot of that was on display over the last few days

Farah Khan, Abhijeet (singer), many others in utter disregard for the heinous nature of Salman’s crime (drunk driving, not helping victim, consistent denials and unwillingness to take responsibility further exacerbating the original crime) and its poor victims, issued bizarre tweets and statements.

Typical Indian liberal elastic morals and ethics

But what was abundantly clear is this: Indian pseudo liberals, living in a cocoon of comfort, extravagance and luxury wants a separate set of law for themselves as well as moral and ethical code, which too they may flout with gay abandon.

They sit on top of moral pedestals lecturing others on what is right and what is not. They would rather judge than be judged, lecture than be lectured to, and use their ‘liberalism’ as a veil behind which anything and everything can be done without any accountability. Question them, you are a ‘fascist’

If the poor exist at all in this super-luxury seven star world, it is to provide ‘background’ for their moral lectures and to act as props for their elaborate image building exercises, gladly accepting crumbs thrown their way.

Pretty much every trick in the liberal book was deployed to ‘rescue’ Salman. Let’s look at a few of them.

Why not go catch others? A typical argument used by criminals. After all there are so many rapes, murders, why not go after them? You go after their rapes and murders they’ll squeal why not go after drug trafficking and if you go after drugs, it’ll be Can’t they attack poverty first!

He’s a nice guy! The most ‘harmless’ of all the ridiculous nonsense that was thrown about. That Salman is a nice guy. He is, of course. But then that nicety did not stop him from being utterly callous about the victim. Or to own up his act and plead guilty! If he had done so, then it can be rightly argued it is a one time mistake, although he has had other run ins with the law as well.

So the ‘nice guy’ was visited at home to be consoled by Bollywood elite, as if he was the victim! It is pertinent to ask if any of these worthies visited the homes of the dead poor. The answer should be obvious.

 

So much money is at stake! This comes a close second to the crazy defense award. Figures like Rs.200 crores were floated about. A twitterati gets it right though

It’s the fault of victims! This was yet another trick tried. So it is more wrong to sleep on the pavement ‘like a dog’ as singer Abhjijeet puts it, than to run them over. Of course, our resident genius Farah Ali compared them to people crossing train tracks!

Blame it on government! This was the height of liberal idiocy. Blame government for an individuals drunken orgy of crime and then pretend that they are the only ones caring for the poor! Guess it’s ok to bulldoze jayBlameItOnModi walkers and blind going without guard dogs?

 

Sentence too harsh! If all else fails, this can be tTooHarshried.

 

 

Idiotic suggestions and ‘cures’ This takes the first prize! Farah Khan wants separate lanes earmarked for poor homeless to sleep on the pavement so that drunk drivers like Salman can run over whatever else lies on other pavements! Guess walking on pavements should be banned too, so that you don’t get run over by a speeding SUV driven by a drunk Bollywood hunk!

 

 

GST in India – Miles to go

One hurdle crossed

This is no time to sleep. GST Bill has cleared the LS hurdle. A remarkable achievement in of itself for a government often accused of ‘bulldozing’ and ‘arrogance’. But the RS hurdle remains. At worse it may get passed in first few weeks of July. Shamefully, Congress walked out instead of supporting their own bill for flimsy reasons. After all, most the amendments to their bill was the product of further consultation and consensus building by Jaitley. Because of their rabid opposition for opposition sake Congress is losing valuable chance to claim credit for this bold reform.

A long to-do list

But this is only the beginning. There are many things that need to be done right and right on time to make sure the growth boost that GST can provide in theory happens in reality. Let’s look at a few of them

The Rate

Yes, Arun Jaitley has clarified 27% is high and will not be the final figure. But what’s it going to be? We don’t know. The unwieldy looking GST Council will set the rate. Hopefully it will be something around 16% not higher as India is already a high tax country. GST is also regressive, i.e., it taxes poor more heavily than the rich. After all poor spend more save less. In the long run a sensible balance between income and consumption tax is the key to national competitiveness. Very hard to achieve in a federal setup though.

How many rates? This is another key question. Purist fanatics may argue for one rate, no exemptions to keep things simple. But then this is impractical for India. We are going to live with multiple rates, and exemptions to a whole lot of goods, some justified by nothing other than political expediency. This makes accounting complex.  And pushes up rates for the taxed items. Here we would argue it can be ‘mission accomplished’ if the rates are kept to as few as possible (say 3 at most) and exemptions at bare minimum.

The Paperwork

This is the most significant of all. After all, a key benefit of GST is supposedly simplified compliance. But this means several things

The monthly return form has to be kept as simple as possible. For example, in Singapore, most businesses simply fill in three or four numbers. Purchases, Input GST, Sales, Output GST, Net owed/due. That’s it! More rates will mean more breakdowns. But despite that it can be kept simple if there is bureaucratic will.

Information should be asked for on exception basis, only if evasion is suspected or arising from random checks. There is absolutely no need to ask for detailed information from each and every business, drowning the babus in mountains of useless data.

The registration process has to be instant, online and the exemption limit for optional registration kept at sensible levels. The paperwork has to be so easy, small businesses should opt to register instead of fearing the process to stay out of GST altogether. This helps them get input tax credit. It also helps the Government – it gets to tax the last bit of value add (retail margin) and gives access to statistics of consumption and business activity otherwise lost.

The process of proving input tax should also involve as little paperwork as possible and kept simple. If refund cannot be claimed, businesses would find ways to stay out of the system and not pay output tax as well. Here again, the returns filed should be taken as true, with stringent penalties for wanton wrong declaration or false claims. This is easier said than done. Our bureaucracy is used to treating every businessman as a criminal in order to setup a complex system that is then used to milk bribes and favors. And provide rent seeking opportunity to unproductive “experts”, accountants, fixers and the like. What makes GST even more challenging is the input may have been taxed in another state. This gives lots of incentives for the state where the output is taxed, to deny input credit or insist on onerous, impractical documentation. This could be due to irrational fears or simply to increase ‘revenue’ opportunities for babus and netas. This is where the Central Government should control the process to ensure transparency.

The Coverage

A lot has been said on numerous items left out of the GST system. What this means is the input tax spent on producing those items gets cascaded, losing the GST value-add benefit. This obviously hits industries using these products as their key input and its final consumers. And there’s lots of them.

It also means fragmented production capacities for items like alcohol. It would be near impossible to setup large scale bottling and canning lines for beer or wine, for instance, to be produced where it makes sense, and shipped to consuming states. Getting states to agree to this, when they get huge percentage of their revenue from alcohol is going to be impossible.

Here again, we would argue for taking pragmatic look at what is sale-able in the current system and not waste time insisting on perfection along Singapore or New Zealand lines. This is where agenda driven columnists that have been slamming the ‘imperfect’ GST get it wrong. Perfection is something we should work on for the medium and long term, savoring minor victories along the way.

Hopefully once states see the tangible benefits of GST system, they will be more amenable to including more items with the assurance that they don’t lose out on revenue.

The Process

One advantage of a fragmented tax system was that states could decide quickly on what gets taxed, how much and when. The GST system introduces a rather complex consensus process which has to be activated for every major change.

We have to see how this works out in practice. It is too early to comment.

Other concerns

We are not as concerned about the 1% cascading tax as others seem to be. It is supposedly temporary, and even if it becomes permanent, if it helps get GST off the ground, it may pay for itself in more ways than one. After all it is better to get started somewhere instead of spending another decade building a perfect GST.

Something is better than nothing!

All said, something is better than nothing. Past experience tells us, be it in aviation policy, telecom liberalisation or for that matter anything else, the “Indian way” is to get going with something imperfect and once it becomes part of landscape, patch it up along the way. It will still be something imperfect by any rational comparison, but if you look back 20 years you’d go “Wow, that’s a lot better!”

GST is no different

 

Revised upgraded version of Rahul Gandhi

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No its Rahul Gandhi V4.2.1 launched afresh by Congress party after his disappearance for 2 months, presumably to Thailand. For a guy that sarcastically requested PM Modi to ‘visit India’, it is strange he could not find peace and inner awakening from within this subcontinent, something Buddha and many others seem to have managed quite well.

It’s clear Congress did a lot of home work to ensure this revised, upgraded version would get better reception in the marketplace. Courtiers were lined up in the media to give the story a good copy and push things along with flattering tweets and articles.

But then in arranging fawning praise of the crown prince by media “friends” as well dynastic domestic servants and sycophants, Congress inadvertently betrayed its real problem.  It came across as a mother going into raptures over the babble of her child who should actually be speaking full sentences for his age.

For example when Rahul spoke in the Parliament for the first time in this house, after a year of dozing, (And his third speech in entire Parliamentary career of more than a decade), party faithful started dancing as if the messiah has arrived with the manna. Shashi Tharoor’s was a typical reaction “Fiesty, combative, bilingual speech….he and INCIndia are back!“. So a 46 year old man speaking Hindi which is as good as his mother tongue, and English is something to be celebrate! Hallelujah!

Whether the rest of India and ordinary voters will react the same way will be known in a few years time. But for now, Congress has a lot of servants singing “Thumak Chalat Ramachandra” every time Rahul Gandhi takes baby steps!

For now, its comedy time as our dear friend proved he needs a smartphone to ‘copy’ even a simple paragraph in English paying tribute to Nepal earthquake victims. Twitter world was rolling in the aisles trending #PappuCantWriteSaala  Wonder how much of the precious money spent on building up a pro-poor image for the messiah had to be written off with that one picture of Rahul copying from his smartphone! Thankfully Mr. Tharoor did not tweet his delight over Rahul writing a paragraph in English with his own hand.

But many others would not be amused to see yet another Gandhi (after his grandma and Papa/Mama) trying to turn the deprivation and misery created by their own policies and misrule into a franchise or marketing gimmick to exploit to rule yet again, create more misery.