Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Where have all the Superheroes gone in our country?

Has the idea of renting out the national resources sprouted because the Central Government couldn’t sell the Public Sector Companies?  Has the government been ailing with an insatiable thirst for money? The government has taken one lakh and seventy thousand crores from the RBI.  Could anyone guess how the government spent this largesse by the Central Bank?

Earlier when the RBI Governor refused to part with the money the government asked questions and they ultimately changed him. The Government cares less to account for this large amount. Neither it will reveal to the Public nor will it place the accounts before the Parliament.

Introduction of GST is claimed as a tax reform. In reality, It is an atrocious tax form. As a writer, after the publication of a book, I paid GST. Such a tax never existed before.  Only the book vendors used to pay the sales tax.

Every economic activity and social pursuit is taxed. Under the garb of the sonorous slogan of one nation- one tax, people are deceived by the GST roll out. The GST tax regime aimed to wring the plebeians to the maximum by merging all the State and Central taxes. States are given free hand to tax heavily. The Corporate companies which dole out political funds in thousands of crores of rupees anonymously are safe from the crushing tax nets.

Centre takes not only a lion’s share in GST, but it has more ways to fill its coffers- Income Tax, Corporate Tax and Excise Revenue too. Centre is almost collecting Rs. 20 lakh crore annually from the GST. Due to the pandemic, though the collections had receded to some extent, Centre was able to grab Rs 12 lakh crores from GST alone. In a single month of March, it could garner Rs. 1.23 lakh crores. On an average, the monthly collections from GST are Rs. 2-3 lakh crores. Income Tax and the rest of the direct taxes yielded Rs. 12.06 lakh crores. Where has all this money gone? Why again renting out of national resources for a humongous amount of Rs. 6 lakh crores?

Is this due to the heavy foreign debts?

D. Narasimha Reddy, Professor of Economics at the Hyderabad Central University, explains that the reason for the immense pressure from foreign players to privatise the Public Sector Companies is because India’s dependence on their debts. The Central and State governments care a hoot about the mountains of irredeemable debts that they are accruing recklessly.

This is all concomitant to the fallacious policies that are pursued with an ambition to perpetuate their rule, come-what-may, without caring for the needs of the country. This is a lethal result of the self centred policies of the parties at the cost of teeming millions. This is an appalling state of affairs wherein a sovereign country is surrendering  to the demands of foreign powers and economic institutions abroad that protect the western companies’ interests.

Kantarao and Rajanala in a war scene

Even in the wake of LPG policy in 1991, where privatization had become the holy grail, there was still a policy bind that some key sectors were beyond up for grabs for the private players. Disinvestment has become a euphemism to sell the PSUs in installments. A new lexicon was created- Structural Re-adjustment. Licence Raj was dispensed with but thermal power plants, hydro power plants were allowed to be owned by private capitalists. Indiscriminate privatization was writ large. One example: In Nellore alone, eight electricity companies were allowed to open shops.

 The Centre has been trying to reach the end game in completely privatising the Public Sector that has accumulated vast wealth in the seven decades of their existence. For this final ritual, a new word has been coined: Monetisation.

People understood the slogan ‘Minimum Government and Maximum governance’ as minimum interference by the government and it would usher in clean rule. But they did not guess that Railways and railway roads would be given for rent, Airports and oil companies and ports would be sold.

What is the fate of a democracy if the country is not saved from the debt trap and the government resorts to selling the Public wealth and National resources to private players in installments in bits and pieces?

Democrats want the political parties to be beyond anti Muslim phobia;  they  want them not to use the religious sentiments to lure voters and once they get into power distorting the economy; they desire that the parties not to create hiatus between BCs and other castes; they wish that just for getting votes anti upper caste , anti Hindu, and anti Brahmin hatred should not be spread among the schedule castes. But it is merely a wishful thinking. The Political parties, not one but all the parties are stoking the emotions against  others has become the normal way of doing politics.

Garnering votes using the weapon of hatred is similar to Corona Virus. Even though we may get rid of the Virus, perhaps this virus of spreading hatred would endure for long. Democracy is now infected with new disease, a novel Coranavirus of politics of hatred.

Apart from the politics of hatred, an atrocious policy of giving rent of the national wealth to the private capital has emerged. People should question this unconstitutional, anti national and hazardous policy which is detrimental to the economic health of the country.

In the Telugu films directed by Vithalacharya during the 1960s, the legendary Superhero Kanta Rao rebels against the Villain Rajanala who imposed taxes on every conceivable thing- like tax on births, tax for infertility, pilgrimage tax, tax on heretics, etc.

Unfortunately, we have innumerable Rajanalas. But we are yet to find a single Kantarao, a superhero to resist the evil of oppressive taxation.

(Kantarao’s birth centenrary celebrations started on 16 November 2022)

Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Prof. M. Sridhar Acharyulu
Author is Dean, Professor of law at Mahindra University at Hyderabad and former Central Information Commissioner. He published a number books in English and Telugu.

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