Ban on red beacon, beckons better days ahead

The ban on red beacon lights atop VVIP vehicles from May 1, 2017 has brought cheer to the common man who has been at the receiving end for decades. The decision taken by Narendra Modi cabinet is laudable for the reason that several attempts in the past failed but this time around the Prime Minister is keen to get rid of the red light culture.

The beacon light is a false sense of power that not just politicians and bureaucrats aspired for but in the last few decades several men and women with political clout and connections received the status to flaunt ‘power’ and even get away on the busy roads and gained entry to venues that they could never imagine getting into.

The ‘red light culture’ ensured an ego boost to Indians and provided them with a symbol to parade in public and show that they were ‘important’ people. What the ban has done is now to bring some sort of a level playing field. The common man on the road now no longer would be cold shouldered and pushed aside. The red beacon was like a crown that gave the man inside a car a superior power. That power is now taken away for good and there is no need to wait till May 1 as ministers and all and sundry have already started pulling it out in a hurry that was never seen.

That it took a cabinet decision to get rid of the red light shows how much it meant to people in power. Several earlier attempts failed and that is why this decision gains even more prominence. In pre-independent India men would carry umbrellas whilst the maharaja and nawab walked, some still do when a politician makes an entry. The end of the lal batti is a big step and augurs well for more such decisions. One hopes this is just a beginning.

If one may believe the next ban would be on the entourage that accompanies politicians. History has already proven that men of calibre never aspired for a beacon or an array of cars to follow them. The former President and missile man of India A P J Abdul Kalam is a shining example.

What the ban on lal batti culture has done is to give the common man hope. Hope of a better future where the janta janardhan too has a voice and he can stride alongside the ‘powers that be’!



Moving inch by inch towards GST

The 9th GST council meeting between the centre and the states on January 16 passed off with a broad consensus on several fronts. The roll out of GST would begin by July 1. The centre conceded in leaving 90 per cent dealers in under Rs 1.5 crore annual turnover category within the State government purview.

 Another contentious area of levying tax on economic activity within 12 nautical miles of territorial waters was given to states though such rights vest with the centre.  The initial roll out of GST by April 1 may not happen now and has been deferred to July 1, 2016. Nevertheless, the movement towards a new GST regime is happening inch-by-inch.

 In the next council meeting scheduled on February 18, the officials would sit together to categorize goods under the slabs of 6 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent. Finance ministers of different states have been making efforts to see that there would be no tax on agriculture products and minimum possible tax on goods used by the common man.

On the issue of differences between states over GST, the centre would intervene and resolve.

 Overall there has been a consensus among all the states barring West Bengal which insists a 100 per cent control over the traders with a turnover below Rs 1.5 crore.

The power to levy and collect Integrated-GST, a tax on inter-state movement of goods and services, would lie with centre but by special provisions, states will also be cross-empowered.  While there are issues such as dual control over assesses, the fact that with each council meeting some headway is being made augurs well for GST.

The coming days are exciting as several questions on sharing of administration, how is it going to be for large tax players, whether it would be on the basis of revenue or type of supply is to be seen.

The publication of GST laws would be keenly observed as all stake holders prepare for what can be termed as a new regime. Watch this space for more on GST.