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Political parties promise the moon; will you fall for them?

January 13, 2014 15:15 IST

Political parties promise the moon; will you fall for them?

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T N Ninan in New Delhi

As the election season approaches, bad ideas seem to gain currency. Perhaps there ought to be a Raspberry Award at every election, for the idea that merits the greatest derision (the award is given by everyone making the rude noise that is described as "blowing a raspberry"). Let's consider some candidates for 2014.

The first is the Nitin Gadkari idea of abolishing all taxes, save customs tariffs (the Bharatiya Janata Party is nationalist, remember, so imports from other countries must be taxed, come what may).

The abolished taxes will be replaced by a 2 per cent tax on all banking transactions. I have done some simple maths, and it seems that people like you and me will be massive beneficiaries, since take-home pay will go up by about 40 per cent - there will be only a 2 per cent tax deduction at source.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Political parties promise the moon; will you fall for them?

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We should be quite happy to pay a further 2 per cent after that on every bank withdrawal, and all downstream transactions can then be done in cash (most retailers in India are already evading sales tax, so this is no big deal).

Mr Gadkari's cohorts have worked out a way to counter this: all currency notes above Rs 50 will be withdrawn, and cash payments for anything that involves more than Rs 2,000 will be declared illegal.

But we could tell our tailors to provide for outsize trouser and skirt pockets, to carry many bundles of currency notes, and leave it to our clever traders to hide from the new Stasi that will have to be created for policing all cash transactions.

How Mr Gadkari thinks he will end up with no loss of tax revenue is a mystery, but it is almost worth making him finance minister to find out, and watch the fun and games. We could amuse ourselves by blowing raspberries at him every single day.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Political parties promise the moon; will you fall for them?

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The second award candidate is provision of 700 litres of free water daily to every household.

Now, the World Health Organisation's regional office has calculated that the bare minimum water need is 70 litres per head per day.

For a typical five-member household, that works out to 350 litres per day - half the Aam Aadmi's gift.

So even if the new government in Delhi wanted to give free water, it should have been half the announced quantum.

When water wastage climbs and a shortage grows, that will be the time to blow raspberries at India's new Messiah.

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Photographs: Reuters

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Political parties promise the moon; will you fall for them?

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The third candidate for the Raspberry Award is Narendra Modi's demand that the government stop subsidising meat exports; indeed, he seems to be objecting to meat being exported at all.

In the past, Mr Modi has claimed that the subsidy was Rs 50 crore (Rs 500 million). Let's assume his maths is correct. Now, India is the world's largest producer of milk. Milk is produced by cattle, mostly buffalo.

Buffaloes grow old, male buffaloes are even more surplus, and it makes sense to cull them and sell the meat, provided the killing is done humanely.

Since India has a lot of meat, it has a lot of meat exports: 1.8 million tonnes, making it second only to Brazil (1.9 million tonnes) and giving it a 20 per cent share of the world beef/veal trade.

Why would anyone want to lose a perfectly good business, merely because Mr Modi may be thinking that meat exports are done by Muslims? Should we also get out of leather exports?

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Photographs: Reuters

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For the final candidate, we have the Aam Aadmi's translation of the promise of a 50 per cent cut in the power tariff (which would have been impossible to deliver), into a 50 per cent government subsidy.

Maharashtra and Haryana (both under Congress) want to copy the Aam Aadmi - but have forgotten one small point: they don't have the budget surplus that Delhi does. Hellooooo...


Photographs: Reuters

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