"If you don’t put restrain on government, it has tendency of increasing rates"
Geetanjali Minhas | March 19, 2016
Reiterating his views on constitutionalising the goods and services tax (GST), former union finance minister P Chidambaram has said that in case of a genuine emergency, parliament can change it. “If you don’t put restraint on the government, it has the tendency to increase rates,” he said.
“Of the three objections raised by the Congress party, practically everyone has endorsed two. Why doesn’t the government say we accept those two objections? On the third objection, the government seems to be giving the reason that there is no precedent. That is wrong. On the very bill endorsed by me, Jaitley in one clause has put one percent in the constitutional amendment bill. That very bill is the precedent. Article 276 is another precedent where for professional tax the constitution imposes a cap. So precedent argument is no argument. For any other precedent the government must engage the Congress party, the party may or may not consider alternatives,” Chidambaram said. He was responding to a range of queries at the Express Adda Friday evening.
On 18 percent cap in the bill, he said it was sound economic advice to have a cap. Giving an example he said at one point of time marginal rate of income tax was 97.5 percent, which was driving honest people to become dishonest. “The question is should the cap be in the constitution or should it be in the law? We believe it must be put in constitution. Answer is there is no precedent... I just told you we have a precedent.... The other argument is it will be difficult to change it and that is precisely my argument. The idea is that it must be difficult to change it. Let the government first accept a cap, if it does, then we can argue if there should be a constitutional or any other equally efficacious cap,” Chidambaram said.
Responding to a question on the Indian economy growing at 7.5 percent, Chidambaram asked in that case why were exports going down for 15 months in a row. “Why IIP head is barely above water? Why is credit growth limping along at 9 percent, sales of all firms are down at 6 percent, sales of all manufacturing firms are down at 11.5 percent? Keeping this aside, nothing has been done to address issues of sluggish aggregate demand; the chief economic advisor himself had admitted that two of the four economic growth engines i.e. exports and private investment are virtually stalled. The government seems to have given up on exports as there is no word on it. Even though global exports have slowed down, China and Korea’s exports are still positive. Only one out of seven people will say that India’s economy is growing at 7.5.”
On NPAs, he said that they have to be classified into wilful defaults and victims of an economic slowdown. In case of MSMEs, 95 percent are victims of slowdown and need a helping hand until economy takes an upturn.
On Ishrat Jahan case, Chidambaram said the issue is not whether Ishrat was a terrorist or not. The issue is can anyone be killed in a fake encounter? Drawing parallels in the Rohit Vermula case, he said there the issue was not whether he was a dalit or not, the issue was can a first generation learner from a poor background be driven to such desperation by an insensitive university administration that he is forced to commit suicide. Assuming Ishrat was a terrorist, does it give the state right to kill her in a fake encounter? This government will not answer and Mr Gopal Pillai conveniently omits to answer when in August 2013, as the home secretary, he completely justified the second affidavit on video which was telecasted.
Answering the question if BJP will succeed in appropriating the nationalism plank with reference to recent incidents, the senior congress leader replied in the negative. “You cannot define a patriot by whether he raises a slogan along with others or not. We are all patriots and we all love our country but I refused to be told that unless I raise a slogan, I am not a patriot. I have no hesitation in saying ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, but I can’t dictate to another person that unless I say so I am not a patriot.”
Becoming Gandhi: Living the Mahatma`s 6 Moral Truths in Immoral Times By Perry Garfinkel Simon & Schuster India, 264 pages, Rs 699
I Am an Ordinary Man: India’s Struggle for Freedom (1914–1948) Edited by Gopalkrishna Gandhi Aleph, 456 pages, Rs 999
Selected Works of C. Rajagopalachari: Vol. VIII, 1946–48 By Ravi K. Mishra and Narendra Shukla (Editors) Orient BlackSwan, 460 pages, Rs 2,575
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