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Guest column | GST remains an enigma for all

“The slightly more wiser have this age old reaction, ‘only time will tell its success or failure’ and to evade further probing by lesser mortals, they continue, ‘You see the biggest problem is enforcement of policies in this country”

punjab Updated: Jul 02, 2017 15:31 IST
Col Avnish Sharma(retd)
Col Avnish Sharma(retd)
Hindustan Times
GST,Goods and Services Tax,Narendra Modi
Although economist are hailing GST, small traders have come in protest of the new tax reform.(HT File Photo)

Gripped with ignorance and uncertainty but not to let the cat out of the bag , and thus, with an intelligent body language, I asked our local karyana merchant, “Seth ji, so the GST is through, wonder how shall it impact?”. A staunch supporter of the regime out of power, he was candid, “Colonel shaab, these are all means for the government to boost its revenue”. I was as confused as before. “

But, what effect will it have on the traders like you and customers?” Now, that was a pointed question, since the gentleman , a shrewd business man has a monopoly in area not withstanding, him charging strictly at maximum retail price (MRP) and issue only a scribbled bill. “See, any increase in rate will be borne by the customer, how can trader bear losses”, he was forthright but still beating around the bush when I walked out of the store, still as ignorant.

I decided to interact with a chartered accountant friend, “Rajeev, buddy can you throw some light on GST?” He replied, “Yaar, this was to come during the time of the last government but somehow got delayed. It shall give boost to the economy. Just see the value of shares and mutual funds sky rocket.” I still remained at square one.

In recent times , only an event called Brexit had me in a similar quandary. I was at my niece’s wedding at New Jersey , USA and so were her other guests from London. We were at breakfast table when the news broke about Brexit having been favoured by the Britishers. Well, there was a stunned silence before this young lady gasped,” We are sunk!”, Eager to get to the root of the issue , I asked her,” How?”, “ Uncertainty”, was her reply . Still clueless, I probed further, “As uncertain as the British weather?” She beat around the bush but seemed oblivious to the forces that will make her sink.

Imagine majority of people voting for the motion without even knowing the basics of the issue, its fall outs and repercussions. GST evokes similar responses. The slightly more wiser have this age old reaction, ‘only time will tell its success or failure’ and to evade further probing by lesser mortals, they continue, ‘You see the biggest problem is enforcement of policies in this country. Take the case of demonetisation. Modi’s intentions were noble but there was no holds barred in large scale illegal exchange of notes.’

They thus succeed in diverting our focus which anyways was defocussed by GST. Traders, entrepreneurs, manufacturers and such like have started sending advisories based on the government’s pre launch efforts to educate the masses, through the media.

The other day, on my wife’s insistence, I joined thousands of ignorant but excited people at the mall close to our house . Huge discounts were being offered as ‘pre GST sale’. I asked the store owner as to how does it work. He, thankfully did not conceal his ignorance and humbly replied, “Sir, around this time we usually have monsoon sale every year. GST is the new buzz word. Look at its magic. Have you seen so many of you clamour for a sale ever before!”

My clarity about GST remained foggy till my better half, rarely verbose about things sensed my unease and thus in a bid to state an example at par with my IQ level came up with the most comprehensible understanding of this revolutionary economic step of ‘one nation, one tax’. “It is like a direct train from Chandigarh to Howrah. You pay the rail fare before embarking, notwithstanding the train passes through more than half dozen states.

Similarly an item is taxed comprehensibly at origin to avoid variable additions till it reaches the customer.” My lost looks though have assumed reasonable intellectual colour but only time, I suppose, will clear air about this enigma called GST.

(The writer is a Chandigarh-based retired army officer)

First Published: Jul 02, 2017 15:30 IST