By Kamal Morarka
The GST Bill is finally getting passed. Of course, over the last two years the BJP government has made it a big issue, as if the country’s growth depends on the GST. That is not so. GST is a form of taxation, which is adopted in many countries in Europe. It is not there in the USA. Whether it should be there in India or not, does not make a difference. It was mooted much earlier and throughout the UPA regime only one state in India was objecting to it was Gujarat. Very surprisingly the same person who as the Chief Minister was objecting wants to push it through as Prime Minister of the country. That is not the issue. The issue is the GST in any country when introduced takes about 5 to 7 years to settle down, because if you want to do it without lost to any of the state today, you will have to put GST at 27 percent, which will take inflation to a level which you cannot sustain. Ideally, GST should not be more than 12 to 12.5 percent. These all take time. I am happy that both the Congress and the BJP are now talking logically and slowly it will come into place. The Congress wanted a ceiling of taxes at 18 percent. That is very logical, more than 18 percent GST will be unsustainable, but they wanted it into constitution that is not correct. There the BJP is right you cannot put taxation to get into the Constitution. It is an experiment which everybody has to watch, everybody has to work together. Petroleum and alcohol are out of the ambit of the GST. At least petroleum should be put in. Otherwise 40 percent is out of scope which is not a good thing.
Second is Kashmir deadlock. Now Kashmir has become an infectable problem, because the general impression to the Kashmiris is that Delhi is treating them as colony. That feeling nobody likes. You have to give them the feeling of participatory democracy. Of course because of militancy and Pakistan’s involvement, army has to be there, but like all armies probably with a long period army is overdoing things and the AFSPA has become throne in the flash. How to tackle it? It has to be told very-very diplomatically, very sensitively and very maturely. One cannot say what Mehbooba can do; she has got her own limitations. Of course the Mehbooba-BJP coalition has reduced the credibility of Mehbooba. The BJP is seen in Kashmir as a Hindu party. In Kashmir even an Indian party is not good, but with Hindu party they understand that their future is not bright. So I must give credit to Delhi government and Narendra Modi that they are trying their best to win the Kashmiris back, but it is too little too late. Radical steps will be required. Article 370 and all the promises that India has made should be reinforced, but it is against the principles of the RSS and the BJP who want 370 to be abolished. The solution is exactly the opposite 370 has to be strengthen, Kashmiri people’s alienation with democracy has to be won back and probably in a few years things will settle down. It does not matter whether Mehbooba is ruling or Omar Abdullah is ruling or tomorrow Geelani comes and rules, what different it makes. But efforts should be made to win back Kashmiri people.
Thirdly, we are seeing a phenomenon in Odisha. Biju Patnaik is not only identified with Odisha, but he was a giant amongst the politicians of his time. First of all he was a pilot. In the 1948 during Kashmir disturbance when no Indian Air Force pilot was daring to land in Srinagar, he took Jaiprakash Narayan and Aruna Asaf Ali and piloted the plane himself and landed at the Srinagar Airport amidst the hostilities. That talks of his personal bravado. In the world war he received the highest honor from the Burmese government because he took the risk. As a pilot his feats are worth mentioning. Then he entered politics. Before that he started industries, Kalinga Iron & Steel etc. He always had the feeling for Odisha, and today, unfortunately he is not alive but his son is taking odisha forward. He is in his fourth term, and person who did not know Oriya, who was not interested in politics people have accepted him whole-heartedly because of Biju Patnaik. Biju Patnaik’s contribution is difficult to analyze because he was the chief minister for the short time, he was Union minister once or twice, once during the Morarji Desai’s regime and another in V.P. Singh’s regime. He was a tall personality, physically and politically and he had a flare for bring up the backward Odisha into the mainstream. He could not do it in his lifetime, but I think he will be remember, if Biju Janata Dal led by Navin Patnaik is able to bring Odisha to the GDP level of other states.