Fifth Column: A bad idea

If jobs do not start raining down, Modi will soon see signs of enormous despair.

Written by Tavleen Singh | Updated: May 17, 2015 1:01 am
Sunday Column, Express Column, fifth column, Sangh parivar, Baba Ramdev, election promise, Narendra Modi, Modi govt, Modi wave, one year of modi, modi dynasty, finance minister, Arun Jaitely, modi idea The Prime Minister should not hesitate to say openly that a new economic direction is needed because the old one kept too many Indians mired in poverty for too long.

It could be because of his rash speeches on black money during the election campaign. Or it could be because the Sangh Parivar includes economists of the Baba Ramdev genre, but the Prime Minister’s fixation with black money could ruin all chances of fulfilling his most important election promise. Jobs. As he begins his second year in office, let Narendra Modi keep in mind that if jobs do not start raining down on this country’s millions of unemployed young men and women, he will soon see signs of that enormous despair that brought down the mighty Dynasty.

The Finance Minister says that his new black money law should frighten only a handful of Indians who have illegal foreign bank accounts. He could have added that these belong mostly to politicians. And, if he glances around Parliament at the handbags, shoes, pens and watches our humble MPs flaunt, he will see signs of much ill-gotten wealth, but there is no point. His tax sleuths rarely raid politicians.

There is no point either in looking for black money abroad because it is usually not in bank accounts but in real estate and other assets owned by shell companies. So the tax inspectors will make many trips to foreign lands, as they did in pretend pursuit of Ottavio Quattrocchi, and come back with nothing. In frustration they will start harassing middle-class taxpayers travelling abroad for hard-earned holidays. Or as Sadanand Dhume put it so well in The Wall Street Journal, they will start ‘quizzing middle-class grandmothers on how much they spend while visiting their grandkids in Europe or the US’.

What the new law will also do is frighten away investors just as continued use of the awful retroactive law has already done. And, if investment does not pick up, there will be no creation of new jobs and no ‘Make in India’. There will be even less chance of investment picking up if the hunt for black money is pursued within India because every Indian entrepreneur is forced to have a little black money because of bad policies, corrupt politicians and very corrupt tax officers. Decades of ‘socialist’ policies have created a vast infrastructure of corruption that can only begin to be dismantled when power is reduced in the hands of petty officials. When you instruct them to go after black money, they will create an atmosphere so ugly that every paanwala and small shopkeeper will fall into the dragnet. Tax terrorism will acquire a whole new meaning.

India is a country of small entrepreneurs. They are creators of wealth and jobs as much as big entrepreneurs. Their businesses will crumble if tax inspectors get more power than they already have to harass them. Big industrialists have the means to fend tax terrorism off that smaller entrepreneurs do not. More importantly the message that goes out is that the creators of wealth are actually thieves who deserve to be in jail.

At a time when the Dynasty’s youngest child has come back from his sabbatical with a head full of old-fashioned Marxist ideas, the government has a real chance to take the opposite road. Instead of trying to pin ‘pro-poor’ credentials on his ‘suit-boot ki sarkar’, Modi should admit proudly that he wants the poorest Indians to be suited and booted. In the Congress worldview, workers and peasants must remain poor, dirty and in rags so that their great leaders can come and ‘alleviate’ their poverty.

The Prime Minister should not hesitate to say openly that a new economic direction is needed because the old one kept too many Indians mired in poverty for too long. He should go back to talking about bringing prosperity to India instead of merely ‘alleviating’ poverty. That is the kind of ‘parivartan’ and ‘vikas’ this country’s voters wanted when they booted out the most powerful Dynasty since the Moghuls.

A year ago today was the day after the election results gave India its first prime minister in 30 years to have a full majority. In the year gone by, Mr Modi has shown that he is a real leader in matters of foreign policy and in restoring the dignity of the Prime Minister’s Office.

He has also shown that he is ready to talk about India’s flaws from the ramparts of the Red Fort. But he has hesitated to improve governance by curbing the powers of the petty official. So the ordinary Indian still sees the ugly face of the Indian State whenever he comes into contact with officialdom or law enforcement. In the tax department, these two areas meld into each other, giving tax officials the right to raid people’s homes and make victims of these raids guilty till proven innocent. Is it wise to give them more power when they already have too much?

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  1. H
    May 17, 2015 at 1:52 pm
    yess...suit boot indeed..just look at the china boy Adani gets billions of dollars business from china...maybe he can buy more suits and boots for the boss...
    1. A
      May 17, 2015 at 10:27 am
      Author is partly right and partly wrong. India being Union of States, Centre has certain duties and bulk are with the States. Centre can create on its own certain nos. of jobs in limited areas; Modi talks of cooperative and compeive federalism. States must shoulder much higher resp. in jobs creation-areas. On its own, if one job is created, possibly 25 /- 5 jobs in States are created. ( some states creating corr. jobs, some absorbing them in another) Centre can give jobs in railways, armed forces , financial depts. etc. but bulk still are left to States. We see daily, train-loads of labourers coming to Southern states, to Delhi or, to other western States. Like some castes aspiring for BC & OBC status, some States aspire only for backward state-label & financial istance. a former CM can hold fanciful gals function and next to his house, poors might be facing life or death problems in UP . If I travel from North to South, or East to West, I witness peaks and valleys in what I call WQ ( Wellness Quotient). WQ of Bihari is lesser to that of Gujarathi- why? Why even after 68 years after Independence, Bihar talks of no. of hours when electr. will be available? What about CMs who worked in such States? They failed in their duties to serve own State's people in all respects. Modi might have made rhetorical election-speeches but they are only that. But it is upto him to bring about a sea-change across Nation in way we approach problems. Only changes at the top, can never ensure CHANGES down-the-ladder, with 125 Cr. people. Those States who failed own people should feel ashamed for always pointing figures at Centre. They lost self-respect while fattening themselves. (Both the political & bureaucratic cles). They are fit enough to raise slogans only.
      1. A
        May 17, 2015 at 1:02 pm
        Ms.Singh,I had an income tax raid 10 years ago.The officials wanted a bribe in cash.Ironically they hadcome to unearth "black money" and anted me to create more to bribe them.I just closed down my business and retired at 50
        1. A
          Anisha Imhasly
          May 19, 2015 at 1:34 am
          "Restoring the dignity of the Prime Minister’s Office".... Really? Where is the dignity of an uneducated, communalist Prime Minister who shamelessly uses the powers of his office to further a highly divisive Hindutva agenda? Who insults India while he travels abroad? Who sells the country's riches to the highest corporate bidders? Who presides over the dismantling of cultural insutions and the communalisation of academia? THAT is the face of despair in India today. And all this with only a 31% mandate! The shame!
          1. Babu Gupta
            May 18, 2015 at 2:18 am
            Government is making reasonable effort about black money in a balanced approach. There is criticism for doing too little and now I see criticism from a very famous journalist like Tavleen Singh ji. May be she has any vested interest in this issue, otherwise numerous other issues are being pursued by government (most important being Land Bill) currently.
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