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Indian Economy

Practice First, Then Preach

A recent issue of the Financial Express carried a few interesting news items. In an address to the Bohra Muslim community, the PM preached or rather warned that business should be done within the rules and laws. Good advice, but looks to be one-sided for sure. Another news item on the same page said that even if someone who has inadvertently claimed a wrong GST credit, has on his own noted the error and has rectified it, he will yet be liable to pay penalty for putting up a wrong claim. An innocent unintentional error rectified by a person on his own should be pardoned and be not visited with a penalty, but it yet is. Yet another news item was about the fact that the government does not make timely payments towards power purchased from power producers under agreements signed, due to which they face severe financial problems and perhaps bankruptcy too. The government merrily defaults, only to put these power producers in a severe crisis, with no practical recourse but go with a begging bowl. And yet another news item is that government tenders worth over Rs.15000 crore were canceled due to highly discriminatory conditions against domestic companies. So while the government talks about make in India on one hand, on the other, its very purchase tenders discriminate against the domestic enterprises. It smacks of hypocrisy at the government level, which is the one that should actually be the role model and paragon of sincerity and fairness.

The fact is that dealing with the government is a totally one-sided process, where the government has only rights and no responsibilities, which it enforces with brute power. You are required to file your tax return on time, but there is no timeline whatsoever for the receipt of refunds due to you. A small innocent error in your returns results in heavy fines and penalties, but no compensation is received if the government commits errors, often deliberate. A single window timely clearance from the government is an utter myth and even if the law guarantees timely approvals, it is never so. High pitched demands from the government that can prove fatal to enterprises are a routine matter and the system is devoid of any sensitivity to even give you on time, what is legally due to you. And if you want to beat red-tapism, the only way out of it is corruption. This list of woes of the common man is endless, but it cannot stand against the might of the government. It builds resentment and impacts growth, but the government which holds all the cards does nothing in this regard.

So the Hon. PM is no doubt correct in demanding/warning that business should be done within the rules/laws, but the reality is that the law is not followed in spirit at the other side of the table where he stands at present, with no recourse whatsoever to the common man.

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