On GST!

It’s the new political bait in Kashmir

Whether in present shape or with some modifications GST is not going to deliver wonders and change the plight of people of Kashmir..

Tax paying is as old as civilization. The only thing that matters and at times worries is the intent and quantum of taxation.  GST (Goods and Services Tax) as claimed by its protagonists is a reformed and simplified tax regime that was in pipeline for last thirteen years. Even after some voices of dissent in several parts of the country, the GST has been adopted by almost all states and territories except Jammu and Kashmir state. In Jammu and Kashmir, the present governmental dispensation —a coalition of two ideologically different political parties tried its best to keep pace with rest of the country but had to delay GST implementation under pressure from different quarters. No doubt, there are provisions in the Constitution that authorize the state government to push the GST system but the coalition government apprehending trouble with the hurried enactment and more significantly trying to portray a holy cow image of its government deferred the implementation and are trying to take all the stakeholders on board—especially the political opponents.

Enacting the federal laws in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was always an issue because of the special status awarded to the state by none other than the Indian parliament way back at the time of the accession. After 1953 the implementation of such laws turned controversial. The process became intricate and a source of a bargain for the politicians who otherwise were neither capable nor fully empowered to oversee the state’s affairs. In the sinister period of more than half a century not only the mysterious think tanks in the center but a particular party and its much-glamourized leadership played tricks to try the broader amalgamation and dilute the special status of the state. Instead of winning the hearts through due process of carrying out guarantees as promised by the Patriarchate leadership they resorted to all overt and covert ploys and over the period of time created an atmosphere of mistrust. Unfortunately, at present, the leadership of the state wing of the same party is peculiarly apprehensive about financial guarantees to the state with implementation of GST in its present form and are shouting at top of their voice to safeguard the same.

Interestingly, the GST row in Jammu and Kashmir is primarily torn between three political entities—the separatists, the coalition in power and the opposition political alliance. Within this political troika, the equations and stakes are different and unique. The separatists consider the two mainstream groupings inimical to justified rights of people of Kashmir and a big hurdle in pushing ahead an acceptable resolution to long pending Kashmir issue. They accuse them of creating an issue out of GST that will overshadow the real cause of people of Kashmir. On the other hand, the warring alliances on either side of the power struggle are trying to derive maximum out of the GST saga otherwise they have no love left for state’s special status. It is simply a struggle for power that has nothing to do with special status or the financial uniqueness. The opposition mainstream political parties have overnight become saviors of the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir bothering least about the damages done to the structure of special position by their parties and leaders in the past. If we go little deep into politics of GST in the state, the ruling coalition too along with their political turf and constituencies are divided and undecided whether to go ahead with GST in the present form and shape or have the taxation system in compliance to the financial distinctiveness to the state by virtue of its special status. The commanding partner is playing safe while as the others are more aggressive to go ahead with GST completely in its existing form.  This acrimony within the governing coalition has pitched the people of the two regions and particularly the trading fraternity against each other.

 Whether in present shape or with some modifications GST is not going to deliver wonders and change the plight of people of Kashmir, lower their miseries and resolve the basic Kashmir conflict. So making GST an issue to play politics is nothing but political mockery on part of the disgruntled politicians who are desperate to outwit each other only to grab power. It will be fair on part of all these politicians to use their energies to get Kashmir and its people out of this quagmire of uncertainty, death, and destruction.