The missed opportunity of Budget 2022-23

India is in its 75th year of Independence. Affected by pandemic, stunted growth, high inflation and low quality of life. Many sectors of the Indian economy were waiting for the budget with bated breath and expectations.

Recovery predictions of many emerging countries are pushed further later than 2025. Though the recovery is a K-shaped recovery, India has done well to get past the shadow of the pandemic slump in the GDP. India was looking towards a budget which has learnt from it’s mistakes and which was forward looking. As the budget has become an exercise to present the government’s roadplan for the year ahead; here were few expectations and aspirations of the country.

These were few aspirational viewpoints which were required to be addressed in the budget. Rather than improving the demand the government chose to put more money in the hands of a chosen few, who also cannot help as the demand has to be revived both in Rural and Urban markets (MGNREGA would have helped). The cash-strapped MSMEs had to be rejuvenated after consecutive setbacks.

These were drafted before the budget.

Taxation 

  • It is indisputable that any tax should be simple, predictable, transparent, progressive but not complex.
  • We have one of the lowest GDP-to-tax revenues in the World.
  • Though GST revenues returned from the Pandemic lows and are around 1Lakh Cr mark, they are unable to fulfill the compensation promised to the state’s revenue of the pre-GST era.
  • GST has become anti federal with delayed payments and union government collecting cesses on direct taxes.
  • The proposal of the 3 rates GST structure by the NIPFP can be considered to further simplify the tax structure, but the reason why we had 4 rates in the first place was to make it less regressive.
  • It is not the number of slabs but it is the sorting of the categories of the products/services for taxation which matter the most. Ex: Bike is a basic necessity but it is taxed under the highest tax slab. Bikes should be sorted under 2 slabs according to their CC.
  • To give a great example of disproportionate sorting of taxes and categories – Till few recent Gst council meets, there were different GST slabs for circular and square papads.
  • In India, the Income Tax payers as a % to the population is very low,i.e, around 4%; whereas the Tax burden of indirect taxes is very high on Middle class and Poorer sections of the society.
  • A well-intended reduced Corporation Tax did not translate into creation of jobs, because of the Pandemic and reduced sentiment even before it.
  • Government should look at bringing in new Income tax slabs for the 1L to 5L(but only after reducing the high GST rates- as they are regressive) They Can be as meagre as 1-2% without exemptions as a base in the tax pyramid.
  • Tax Wealth and Capital gains in a better way, make Pan Card mandatory for Land transactions.
  • Create incentives by providing the promised Tax Charters and Privileges.
  • While there is Road Tax, there is again a toll while going on the highway, An insurance is a must. The burden on an average citizen with Taxes, Surcharges & Cesses is a never ending saga.
  • The sad part is he gets Pothole filled roads, no compensation for an accident and litigation burden even when he is a victim.
  • Give benefits for each of these and publicize them, increase the incentive to be a law abiding, tax paying citizen.
  • The incentive to pay taxes is good governance, the government should get in return an increased tax base and Revenue, the citizen his essential services.
  • India has a long way to go to fully realise both. But, the steps have to be taken to simplify and edify what Indian Tax authorities stand for.

Debt Profile & Ratings

  • India’s interest payments and it’s fresh debt constitute more than half of the budget. 
  • The Extra Budgetary resources are an unaccounted add-on.
  • The debt has to be reduced progressively, as Newer variants are emerging every other day. Pandemic has pushed the Debt-to-GDP to 90%, which is amongst the highest.
  • India needs to pay out 256 Billion in the Current financial year, this would be a great opportunity to replace the old debt with new ones with lower rates.
  • India should try to utilize the low debt rates around the world, where Debt rates have fallen to less than 1%, if you cannot repay then replace.

Welfare & Spending

  • The Welfare spending in India which is neither welfaristic nor transformative; very inflationary, sadly consolatory.
  • A populist spending to buy the trust for a limited period.
  • The pandemic has pushed many students out of school and their learning has taken a hit.
  • Make spending on Schools and Hospitals of Public capacity in Tier-2 cities and Villages a mission.
  • Pool in lands, ask for funds, let the government schools in each village function in a large facility, the per square feet availability to a student is not only the lowest but the most unrealistic conditions to expect outcomes from such infrastructure.
  • Make the National Educational Policy functional by recruiting teachers to maintain the pupil-to-teacher ratio along with training them to bring in quality of education.
  • Let the infra of schools be developed by the same fund which has seen 25% increase in this budget. Even MGNREGA could be used to develop this infra in villages.
  • Hopefully a new scheme would be announced before any crucial period like a state election.
  • Give additional thrust and funds to the PM Atma Nirbhar Swasth Bharat Yojana, a centrally sponsored scheme to add capacity to primary, secondary and tertiary care health systems along with creating new institutions to cater to detection and cure of new and emerging diseases.
  • That is when the Pareeksha Pe Charcha would appeal even to a Government School student.

Trade, Import, Export & CAD:

India has been recording sustained trade deficits since 1980 mainly due to the strong imports growth, particularly of mineral fuels, oils and waxes and bituminous substances and pearls, precious and semi-precious stones and jewelry. In recent years, the biggest trade deficits were recorded with China, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Indonesia. India records trade surpluses with the US, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, United Kingdom and Vietnam.

  • Current Deficit is $22.9 Billion in November 2021, Increased from $10.2 billion in the same month of the Previous year
  • Currently the total deficit for the Year stands at $147 Billion
  • Although the Exports are Increasing at a fast pace in India, but we should not fool ourselves as most of the Increase is due to inflation Worldwide.
  • There is no real increase but only nominal.
  • India has large dependence on China for components for their Products being Manufactured in India it Includes many Industries from Auto, Electronics, Solar PhotoVoltaic Cells and Pharmaceuticals(API’s), Most Trade bodies are advocating more time to develop the Industries needed.
  •  India should have a neutral stance rather than  a Hostile stance towards China to to gain by integrating itself in the Global Value Chain.
  • Also, we have to encourage domestic capacity generation to reduce reliance.
  • Cheaper Transport of goods, low cost of Logistics, better incentives for MSME’s are the way forward.
  • India should discourage Imports of Gold and other high value metals.
  • Focus on Imports of High Value Machinery and provide subsidies in Custom duties to Entrepreneurs, so that they may enable export of Value added Products where they bring in the much needed Foreign Exchange to reduce the Deficit.
  • “Over $400billion went out of India to import gold vs  $600 billion+ that came in through FPI, FDI & VC. Imagine, instead of gold, some of that money was invested in Indian startups & listed companies. There could’ve been immense and inclusive local wealth creation”.                 – Nikhil Kamath

Grassroots, Cooperatives

  • The idea of creating the portfolio of Cooperation, misuse of legislative power of the centre to erase the lines of the federal division of powers has become the norm.
  • But the power of cooperatives in transforming lives cannot be discounted, the success of Amul and leadership of Milk Farmers and Milk becoming a sustainable venture .
  • The recent failure of PMC Bank, etc also shows misregulation of Cooperatives due to the dual regulation structure.
  • So, the farmers have to be educated about forming Cooperatives and increasing their yield as their meagre land holding can give a lot more than what they can do when they work together.
  • The cooperation ministry should do well to educate Farmers to collaborate and move in the right direction. 

Bangladesh Vs India

  • While we are celebrating the 50th Vijay Diwas and being proud of achievements in slicing Pakistan into 2 and creating Bangladesh.
  • We should notice, Bangladesh has silently worked towards achieving good GDP per capita, surpassing India, thereby improving the quality of life of an average Bangladeshi.    
  • A key lesson for India: Women form a large part of the workforce in Bangladesh unlike India where majority of the women are either in low-skilled jobs or are stressed with unpaid work at home. Indian women should be leading the workforce from the front.
  • Reserve seats in all tiers of government for Women @40%. That is when laws can be made for women, by women.
  • Women should understand that they have to unify, fight for their rights and represent themselves- like the CJI has twisted the adage of Marx – “Women of India unite, you have nothing to loose but your chains”.
  • An acknowledgment and acceptance of the same by the Finance Minister would tick the right boxes.
  • Not only will there be better representation of women and their issues but the perception on ground would change in their favour.

Electoral Bonds:

  • The electoral bonds have to be made transparent, though the funding is through proper banking channels. It is leading to corruption, crony-capitalism and opaqueness of funding which does not fulfill the aspirations of a citizen and is working against her.
  • All monies should be transferred through electoral bonds but should be made available through RTI not through MCA portal.

Opposition To Agri Laws and later 

  • The agricultural sector which should have been a self reliant and profitable undertaking has become “ Like a Betal being carried by a Vikramaditya”.
  • Agriculture is a Loss making Venture all around the world if you see the real costs involved, it is the same story in India too.
  • In India – since the past 50 years it’s been supported through various subsidies in the form of Fertilisers, MSP and other means.(without the support of the government , the sector is barely profitable).
  • The agricultural laws are well-intentioned – removing Holding Limits, letting farmers contract with companies and individuals and letting them sell beyond APMC’s; all look excellent on paper.
  • But the farmers feared they would be mowed down once they let these acts become the law as they will have less bargaining power as the powerful may run the roost.
  • The Judiciary which a key part in it has to be strengthened, not only Mediation but the CJI- suggested Infrastructure maintaining body and an additional body(Like the Delimitation Commission) under the HC’s and Law Ministry to maintain the number of judges as a proportion to the number of population would : reduce pending litigation, simplify approaching the court and increase the trust in the law and order of this country.
  • The losses to an average citizen may not be apparent due to a false facade of populist subsidies like electricity, water, MSP & agricultural Inputs.The loss is the opportunity cost if we look at  it from the lens of a targeted scheme which aims to educate, inform & skill the farmers.
  • To Improve their profitability and to invest in allied sectors.
  • The Farm laws could have helped to develop the Food Processing Industry in India which would have made Agriculture from a loss making venture to a profitable one, As India is placed rightly to export Food to the Middle East, Europe, North & East Africa.
  • Also the Industries Could have provided Employment in the much stressed Rural areas.
  • Increasing the Incomes of the Farmers in the Rural Areas, as the farmers could synergize into a Co-operative and sell at an attractive price to these Companies.
  • The food processing industry could be a boon. But the farmers should be able to defend themselves in case of an Injustice meted to them. 
  • The Government should focus on strengthening the judiciary at the grassroots level and also inform about the same. Ex- GramNyayalayas
  • The number of judges, the court infrastructure, the accessibility of courts, all add up to this opposition to Farm laws.
  • If the NDA government wants to explain the real intentions- Strengthen Judiciary, let institutions work to their highest potential.
  • The movie Jai Bhim sheds light on the same.

Environment :

  • Climate change is a reality, UNFCCC is ready to pass on the baton to an even more irresponsible UNSC.
  • The developed nations are not here to help, the INDC’s are just an apology but no realtime reform.
  • The urban floods, dust storms, frequent-wild cyclones and paralysed cities are a reality.
  • The government would be better prepared to focus on a mission like the Jal Jeevan Mission; a Paryavaran-Jeevan Mission, it is more important than a Smart city Mission with a Centralised Control Center, what can you control without laying a Storm Water drain or clearing an encroachment on the Nala. 
  • Urban Environment -All trees which are about to be cut-down should be compulsorily relocated, the wetlands, the medieval routes for cities & storm water drains should be explored and Houses, establishments on it should be cleared and people rehabilitated.
  • Environmental protection, New renewable energy projects should be encouraged by the government but without a national Mission-mode plan to resuscitate our cities, climate change is bound to create more loss than we can stop.

In this never ending pandemic world, India has to focus it’s spending on its fair share of problems. The debate about the $5Tn economy has created its own challenges. India should be focused on being resilient to future waves and create a robust domestic economy. The way forward is to bring in the real ‘minimum government, maximum governance’, creating Ease of doing business by resolving policy dilemmas. India has recovered better than other countries. We should focus on these basic dilemmas and create a better economy making it human-centric.

 Moving forward with good taxation policy and budget choices, India is quite capable of getting to it’s target of $ 5 Trillion if not by 2025, sometime in the near future. Again, it is not the size of the GDP that matters, with huge inequality it is the Health Outcomes and the Literacy Outcomes and Equal Opportunities- i.e,capacity of an individual to develop oneself fully, that can only make a difference when India celebrates 100th year of independence.

Amrit Kaal has come so when the real Amrit of development is delivered to the citizen, the Halahala will be consumed by the countries who believed the idea of India is a myth and would fail.

Credits – The Titles, Content and anecdotes are by Pranav PSS, my friend JMR Manish has added important information; he is a CA Final Student added imp. Info to the fields of Taxation, Agri Laws & Trade sections.

If there are any errors factual or grammatical please bring to my notice. Thanks for reading and keeping up with this.

Waking up in 2121 India

Alette wakes to a fresh fragrance of the spring breeze in her Beach facing house in a smart town in Western India. The day being the 15th of August, she reminisces the journey of herself and this great nation which has given her everything.

Flash of thoughts cross her mind as she looks out at the street which is filled with festive fervour; The tryst with destiny, the constitutent assembly, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Gandhian philosophy which has inspired movements world over; the founding fathers had really laid down the right principles for a poor country to aim so high and achieve such excellence in such an arduous journey.

She then feels so much of appreciation for her Grand Father who had moved to the country as a refugee fleeing from Myanmar during the Junta crack down.

And she feels lots of gratitude for the country for accepting them and providing them with every basic need, “ I think India regained it’s lost legacy of being a golden sparrow, which it was in the 1st 15 centuries and maybe it improved and learnt in it’s course as any great nation does from the lessons, some self induced and some induced by foreign perpetrators”.

She then delves on the thought of what is that one single source of happiness which she cherishes and one single reform in the country which has changed the course of the country from being any third world country to being a responsible power which stands by highest ideals of humanity and liberty.

She then leaves to her School and being the special occasion it is she is so excited, she really wanted to share her story with the other children in the school’s assembly. Ruminating about the speech while in transit, she was worried if she may miss few lines and even if she won’t, is the draft engaging and informative enough, that is a real dilemma now.

Finally, she was on stage, and decides to wear her heart on her sleeve and decides to be as candid and edifying as possible.

“My grandfather fled from Myanmar when the Junta took over power. India accepted us and gave us citizenship later. I have been told by my grandfather many a times that when he came to this country, there was a pandemic and many people lost their lives and livelihoods.

He was apprehensive about India at such a time accepting and being a permanent home for us, but he exclaims the country had it’s biggest opportunity in the harshest of times it faced.

India, understood the value of Freedom, liberty, environment, respecting natural frontiers and built alliances with hostile countries which were improbable in normal times.

The key reforms in the course of this century it brought to bring in equity to uplift the poor and held the middle class from falling out are to be cherished today. Mainly few are memorable, the initiative to have a roof over every family, incentivising poor families sending their children to schools, having universal health coverage, providing jobs by encouraging investment without red-tape, increasing the number of courts, improving the access to justice, not entertaining any opposition to affirmative actions thereby ensuring social justice which has given many their right to life and liberty and thereby achieving their utmost potential and contributing to the powerful country India is today.

As a country, India strived for peace, maintained it’s strategic autonomy and didn’t fall for false premiss set by some developed hypocritical countries, who used peace to propagate war, democracy to pursue selfish interests, power to act irresponsible.

As the 21st century was the century of the Asian continent, the South Asian Union, the peace and democracy achieved after many failed attempts by coups and autocrats to hold unto power and be responsible at the same time, they gradually gave in to democracy and left vested interests as people became aware of the traps of propaganda and their own longing for a better life and breaking the shackles of their mental encumbrances to embrace peace and accept the binary of the other.

The Indian became informed and so did the polity and economy did later, the environmental action, the social justice and the constitutional values followed her as she walked the path of enlightenment, embracing nirvana of individual development and rejecting all forms of demagoguery, bigotry and othering.

These things didn’t matter anymore when the pressing issues of Health, Environment, Climate change and Livelihoods were weighed in, but still we have to propagate the ethos of India:

“Sarve Bhavanthu Sukhna, Sarve Santhu Niramaya, Sarve bhadrani pashyanthu”, that means : “May all be happy, may all be without disease, may all creatures have well-being, and none be in misery of any sort”.

Thank you everyone.

As she finished the school rouse in applause and the applause didn’t stop, it kept ringing in her ears and she then blinked again and saw it so surreal to see a huge gathering of her supporters who have voted her to power and have made her an MP and the future PM of this country, her party has confirmed she would be the PM, she smiles and waves at them and then she wonders how much was she lost in the past that she forgot this huge victory and the power of the Indian population to have voted her to power.

The cheers, the festivities, the pomp and gay around her house in an insignificant backyard, do show how a country can choose it’s priorities and change it’s own destiny as well as a person’s life altogether.

She deeply felt the need to meditate more and not get lost in the past as she now has the responsibility of a whole nation on her shoulders; but she is not to blame, her success was so dreamlike that she had to reconcile her whole life and search where was the foundation for such a success was laid down.

The need for change in Leadership styles in the age of educated soldiers in the army

“I do not know whether leaders are born, or leaders are made. Give me a man with reasonable common sense and decency, and I can make a leader out of him” – Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw

Indian army a professional, dedicated and a legendary organisation which upholds the sovereignty, unity and integrity of the country. The army recruits men of extra ordinary character, dedication, selflessness and leadership skills.

The leadership skills and qualities of a management position person are always compared to an Indian army officer as a benchmark to measure a leader’s suitability to a position. Such leadership skills and qualities are deeply ingrained and are winnowed for in induction into the military service and are later honed to perfection through training, tasks and positions commissioned upon the officer.

However, the unseen factor affecting recruitment, training and skilling depends on the various leadership styles of the army such as : Transactional, Transformational, Servant, Autocratic, Follower. The styles put into use depend upon the role and responsibility of the soldier. Though participative and Laissez-Faire principles are not followed in the army for being anti hierarchical and individual-centric, these are being considered for the needs of the 21st century after the educated soldiers are being recruited by majority.

Soldiers recruited before the information-age and the surge in Higher Educated recruits :

Belonged to rural and agricultural backgrounds ready to be skilled, accept commands as they are used for hierarchical family structures and had the connect with nature and the hard work necessary to till the ground and harvest the crop.

They qualified for the minimum requirements and were trained to have the necessary language skills of the job.

There was no connect with the hometown once posted, hence low communalism, casteism, regionalism and other self-identifying factors.

Initially the media was not present and later unbiased, non-opinionated and did the job of an informer, whereas nowadays the media highlights if not reveals the lives of armed forces, making a lasting impact on the soldiers and the leadership styles, ex : CRPF jawans and the food & ration supplies coverage in the national television.

Soldiers posted now have ready access to information at service and inter-connected world than ever before :

The rural, agricultural background has drastically reduced with the increased urbanisation and nuclear family mindset being the norm thereby being less responsive to the supervisory structure.

Increased mobile penetration, 90% being the home ministry’s stats about coverage of the mobile spectrum in the country.

Mobile penetration also mainly smartphone penetration, with that the Social Media : being a selfish medium, increases self-assertion, membership towards socio-economic factors.

A continuous connect with the hometown is also a factor of the increased connectivity.

Increased pay leading to reduced pay parity. Between officers and soldiers, increased private sector jobs and comparable perks in a settled life may also be factors of discontent and attrition.

Need for few tweaks in the leadership styles in the Indian army:

“A leader is accepted when there is character, presence, intellectual capacity and above all a commonality”. – Anonymous

The army has always been responsive to situations unprecedented, unforeseen, and unexpected, the change in the leadership style could be overarching, comprehensive and encompassing of all the factors mentioned above.

The need for leadership style tweaks because of an educated soldier are minute when we look at the brighter side:

The army always looks for a battle ready armed force than a one which is not. To be battle ready, one has to sweat in peace than to bleed in war.

A soldier who is less educated may need a transactional style or a follower style leadership as he depends on the orders of his superior officer and has no individual initiative though it sounds as a prerequisite in an army, it may not so in a battleground situation.

A soldier who is educated may cooperate better, comprehend the technicalities and nitty-gritties of the orders better and may if needed prepare himself to lead the team in an extra ordinary situation like the Kargil war, the struggle and victory of the many unexpected warriors without command.

How can this be made possible, quality of a leader below an officer rank decides the future of the army and the nation, such skills if honed from induction and assessed continuously while officers are groomed to identify and support such soldiers may lead to a great team of men who can protect the great nation.

This needs a transformational and participative leadership style included in the regimen, along with reducing the self-identifying tendencies of the soldiers by constant monitoring and strict enforcement of certain guidelines to be followed while using mobile phones and stayed connected to the internet, Education is an enabler and an equaliser which would give a soldier better self-respect, the army more technical men and the nation a highly united, strong and sophisticated army.

Oscar to Parasite

The Parasite movie has broken the glass ceiling, it has become the first foreign movie to win the Best Film oscar ever. The reasons behind such a phenomenal performance of the film on the night of the academy awards has more to do than what meets the eye.

South Korean movies, the K-Pop, and the K-Drama have become household names worldwide, the international viral of the Gangam style and the ever-popular “my sassy girl” are a few examples.

But, the plot is the winner, it had won half the awards for the film. The screenplay has a unique ballet-like feel with the synchronised twists and revealing of the story.

Now, the story / the hero; apart from spectacular performances and jaw-dropping cinematography the story has made us cry, jump from our seats wonder about the unequal realities of 2 families.

The story starts in a deadbeat family living in a basement in a slum to signify that lives are less equal, less significant and of course their abject poverty. The unequal access to Data which Bong Joon-Ho believes is a human right to be socially connected. The family’s insatiable desire for wealth is a social consequence of their deprivation.

The rich Park’s house is set on a higher ground showing their affluence as they are socially more equal. The wife’s innocence, lack of depth in character and no empathy for her workers shows the privileged folk’s ungenerous attitude everywhere.

The crooked interiors of the basement and the expansive interiors of the Park’s palatial residence show unequal access. The Park’s do not have any knowledge about the basement and the person struck inside, as their care towards their workers living conditions and their unending gratitude.

The story is elevated to symbolise the troubles the poor family faces and the rich keep on becoming self-centered and insensitive.

The heavy rain floods the basement and disturbs their lives where as it brings in joy and pleasure to the Park’s.

The breaking point is when Da Song who is a scout fancier is being surprised by his father and the driver dressed as Native Americans having no regard whatsoever to the culture and just making it into a prop for entertainment.

The plot here gets to the extremum of the Park’s insensitivity as they host the party just after the heavy rains which made many people dispossessed of any belongings in contrast the poor family gets to work after a disastrous, sleepless night and Mr. Park, responding to his driver Ki Taek only to keep to his work as he is getting paid extra and doesn’t pay attention to his weariness.

The dialogue of Ki-Taek that nothing is unplanned, shows the realisation of making the mistakes and depriving the home maker, the driver of their jobs.

But, the movie ends when the son Ki-Woo plans to work hard, go to a university and earn so much as to buy the house – which means he is again planning and may fail in doing so because future is uncertain.

” The film is a deep analysis of the unequal lives of the poor and calls out the callousness of the rich. “