The Yogi effect

UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s decisions- from banning pan, chewing tobacco, illegal slaughter houses, cancelling public holidays and above all, to go ahead and distribute school bags with the previous chief minister’s photo shows he made of a different mettle. What is more, other state governments too are duplicating his ideas

Over the last few months, images of Chief Minister of the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath have been flashing all over the place. His government started various transformative changes that is making everyone sit up and take notice. What started off as a ban on pan, chewing tobacco and plastics is transforming not just offices but also officials of the Uttar Pradesh government.

The change is fast and he seems to mean business. The latest move by him asking his party workers not to welcome him and his ministers with flowers during their visits to the districts and instead welcome his team with a cleanliness campaign is striking a right chord with the common man. In what can be termed as an unprecedented move, never before attempted in the political firma, Yogi Adityanath allowed the distribution of thousands of unused school bags, branded with images of his predecessor Akhilesh Yadav. The measure is to save money as he was keen that public money should not go a-begging just for ‘political ego’.

The most tangible message has been his message that no scheme would be named after any person. The flair with which he is going about his tasks and the determination and quickness with which he is taking decisions is taking many by surprise as the five-time Gorakhpur MP and head priest of the Gorakhanath Mutt has taken the Chief Minister’s seat with consummate ease.

The Yogi effect is rubbing off on other states as well, Gujarat, which goes to the polls later this year, came up with an amendment to make cow slaughter an offence punishable with life term. What is striking is all his decisions are being taken with much appreciation by the man on the street and others are following him as well. For instance, the AAP decided to follow Yogi Adityanath and Delhi is to cancel holidays marking birth and death anniversaries. The UP chief minister’s move to cancel 15 public holidays is being applauded by the intelligentsia as well as the common man.

Even the Muslim community in UP is batting for ban on illegal slaughter houses in the state. Yogi Adityanath’s journey from becoming the head priest in 2014 after the death of his spiritual guru Mahant Avaidyanath has been fast and steady laced with fiery speeches and activism. Now that he is the head of the most populous state in the state, all eyes are on him but he has till date, though too early in his tenure is making the right moves and is able to catch the attention of the common man.

As soon as he was sworn in, he lost no time in making the employees read out and take the ‘swaacchta shapath’ the cleanliness oath and weild a broom to make the offices spic and span. The offices now are cleaner than before and sycophancy is slowing fading away. But apart from these ‘cosmetic’ changes a need to root out corruption that is so ingrained in the officialdom is something that one would have to wait and watch.

If one would bring in cricketing terminology. His first few overs have been phenomenal but there is still a long way to go. Well begun, is half done goes the saying, how it will culminate is something everyone is waiting to watch.

How demonetisation is helping transform railway stations

The economy’s biggest gain from demonetisation is the speed at which e-transactions are increasing. They say that the biggest innovations take place during times of adversity and the Indian Railway is a fine example by using a situation to its advantage

The ‘demon of demonetisation’ or ‘demonetisation blues’ has become the nomenclature post demonetisation and reams have been written on its effect and also how it affected millions across and beyond the country. However, the rail behemoth is looking at the brighter side and a trickledown effect if one may call it to transform how passengers use the facility and is in the process of changing the way railway stations function in the country.

In what can be termed as a first time endeavour, Kacheguda Railway station in Hyderabad was transformed into a completely digitally enable station where a passenger right from parking his vehicle, buying a bottle of water, tickets, using the cloak and waiting rooms and making transactions could do with digitally.

All vendors from teas stall owners, fruit sellers, catering units, book stalls have been given PoS

This experiment is hardly 20 days old and the people are already warming up to the idea and 20 per cent of the transactions are digital. Buoyed by the success, the Indian Railway has decided to make all stations digitally accessible and has included the digitisation of railway stations across the country.

Tea Stalls, Fruit and Juice Centres, Catering Units, Book Stall, Dairy Parlour have been enabled with Point of Sale (PoS) machines.

In 2017-18, Indian Railways plans to make 25 important stations as ‘Digi-Pay’ stations. The Indian Railways has included the idea of ‘Digi-Pay stations in its business plan for the financial year which was released last week by the Minister of Railways.

The economy’s biggest gain from demonetisation is the speed at which e-transactions are increasing. They say that the biggest innovations take place during times of adversity and the Indian Railway is a fine example by using a situation to its advantage.

While pundits debate whether the data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showing India’s third quarter GDP growth logged at 7% in December quarter could be taken seriously or whether other methodologies need to be assessed, there is no difference on issue that there is a spike in digital transactions.

The Indian railway runs 21,000 trains every day to transport 23 million passengers. If even 70 per cent of these passengers turn to cashless transactions, the benefits are huge. By next year, 25 stations in the country would be digital. The revenue from ticket booked through cashless means in reserved and unreserved segment has increased from 58% to 68% and 6% to 8% respectively post demonitisation.

The number of debit cards rose from 739 million to 818 million since October. The number of credit cards from 27 million to 29 million. The value of card transactions on PoS machines shot up more than 41 per cent from October till December.

Demonetisation blues have had their part to play and still does but what the Modi government has done in one single stroke is to open up a wide array of opportunities to do business. The Indian Railways has taken the opportunity. Will young entrepreneurs come up with ideas, there is a lot of opportunity for the willing.


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.