Brig Anil Gupta
Seventy years ago at the stroke of midnight of 14th-15th August, the people of India not only attained freedom from the clutches of British Empire but also won political empowerment. Yesterday, at the stroke of midnight the people of India attained economic empowerment. The introduction of Goods & Services Tax across the length and breadth of the country ushers the era of One Nation, One Tax and rightfully the nation has welcome it. But alas, as was the case 70 years back, this time also the people of J&K were deprived the pleasure of joining the celebrations of the rest of the nation. While rest of the nation was joyous and hopeful, common man in J&K was dreading the possibility of double taxation from 01 July 2017 or critical deficiency in supply of essential communities. The traders, industrialists and businessmen were dreading a bleak future and possible shut down of their units leading to loss of already scarce jobs. Ask every common man in the State and he will tell you how unhappy he is, feeling left out and cheated by those whom he had given his mandate with great hope and expectation of a bright future. But why is the question on everybody’s mind?
I understand it has been done to satisfy the big fat ego of a few valley based power-brokers and their henchmen of varying political ideologies who have always held the state to ransom for the sake of their own personal and business interests at the expense of common man’s interest. For them, common man is a tool to be exploited as a means to satisfy their political greed threatening agitation at the drop of hat. They have perfected the art of arousing passions through skillful oratory, communal appeal and playing the ‘victim card’. For them, sentiments and aspirations of the residents of other two regions carry no meaning and does not fit in their political equations except at the time of seeking votes. How ironical it is that a state which finds it difficult to pay the salary bills of its employees and rushes to the Central Government at the drop of a hat with a begging bowl, state whose all developmental projects are financed by the centre in the ratio of 90:10, the leaders of that state boast of ‘fiscal autonomy’? Whom are they fooling? Or is it that they are trying to impress upon the nation that J&K is different from other states of the country. If so, they have succeeded in giving a severe blow to those who have been shouting at the top of their voices of complete integration of the state. Alas, once again the nationalist forces had to make a retreat to please the soft-separatist and separatist forces, how long will it continue to happen? Will the people of Jammu and Ladakh continue to be at the mercy of these power brokers for ever? Time has come to take note of the anger and dissent in these two regions before it is too late.
I am sure in 21st century events will move much faster than what they did in 1947. There are indications that the state assembly is being re-convened to pass the GST Bill around 06 July. One hopes and prays that the power-brokers do not come out with a new trick to stall it once again because nothing on ground has changed between now and 17 June when the Assembly was adjourned sine die, having assembled specifically to pass the GST Bill in time so that the people of J&K could also rejoice on 01 July with rest of the nation. But who cares for the aspirations and sentiments of the common man? For them ‘fiscal autonomy’ actually means ‘fiscal monopoly’ because they have been misusing their powers to make or amend fiscal laws to benefit their own interests at the cost of the common man. With the online GST regime, tax evasion will become difficult thus adding to the revenue of the state. Then, why there is opposition to it other than vested interests?
“Der Ayyad Durust Ayyad”, did not prove true in 1947. We all are aware of the consequences the nation had to face due to delayed accession of the state in 1947. At that time also it was battle of egos. Though the Maharaja desired to accede earlier, the insistence of Jawaharlal Lal Nehru that the power be transferred to Sheikh Abdullah before the accession was unacceptable to the Maharaja. The history would have been totally different if Nehru would have not laid any conditions and J&K would have acceded to India well before the tribal invasion in October 1947. One only hopes that history does not repeat itself and delayed decision to join the GST regime, as and when it happens, leads to total and seamless integration with rest of the nation and is not marred with controversies. Let the citizens of J&K also enjoy ‘economic empowerment’ like their brethren in rest of the country, only then it will be “One Nation, One Tax” in true sense.
(The author is Jammu based political commentator, columnist, and defence and security analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)