The myth and the reality - The Noel D'Cunha Sunday Column

This Sunday Column remembers the proud past of print in India, with stories that we have condemned to amnesia. These are stories about books, about print education, and about GST

05 Jun 2015 | By Noel D'Cunha

Books liquidated

The news is grim. One important book printer (almost hundred years of standing) has gone into liquidation and the assets and business are on the verge of a sale.

One reflects about these things.

The company's plant and machinery, furniture and equipment, motor vehicles, stock and goodwill will be sold - and can be sold. A valuer shall determine the valuation of the assets. A new business enterprise will be formed. Most of the present staff (admin and production) will be transferred to the new business.

But what about the legacy of literature?

The publishers, the amazing authors, the wonderful words?

Who inherits it?

As Costa Rica's president Don Pepe Figueres, once remarked that "Here, the only thing wrong is everything."

We don't need no education

Every day in every newspaper, we read about how the government is planning a scheme for entrepreneurship development that would introduce specific courses in at least 5,000 colleges over the next three years as a means to boost employment opportunities and economic growth.

The story is as follows. In a Print University (recently in the news in PrintWeek India), a bunch of national and international VIPs and top government officials attended the a la grande function.

A cavalcade of SUVs, garlands, lamp lighting and speeches, print equipment was donated, foreign trips were sponsored. A big shot spoke about, "The proposed scheme is expected to integrate entrepreneurship education with the print industry as well as facilitate print centres across the state."

Even as the dust of the cavalcade settled down, and the lal batties and black commandos vanished into the setting sun; all the laboratories and training and demo centres, were locked up.

These would be unlocked when the next VIP would appear.

Till such time, students have no access to the promises made on dais.

GST: Getting So Troubling

I am a bit confused about GST.

Who is opposing what?

The UPA?

The NDA?

The standing committee? The review committee? The GST Council? The representatives of the Centre? The representatives of the state?

Lok Sabha?

Rajya Sabha?

All of the above?

So, what seems the problem?

My non-GST brain tries to understand it.

When the PM was a CM, his government in Gujarat took a very aggressive stand against GST, arguing that the state’s interests would be hurt. One of his demands: taxes on petroleum, electricity and real estate should be outside the scope of GST. How so, said the then FM, these are the biggest reservoirs of revenue.


Which is why GST 2.0 says the revenue neutrality of the GST has to be tweaked.

But the tweaks are troubling (not to mention it is poorly drafted; so many syntax errors for starts). The finance ministers of the rich states (as opposed to the BIMARU states) are staking a claim for a GST rate of 25%. FYI: The GST benchmark in East Asia is 15-16%. Besides the high rate, it means, India will be the only country in the world to have a dual-GST system, comprising a central GST and a state GST.

So, we are informed the GST Bill is not the GST Bill which it once was.

I met a wise gent in the local Mumbai train. He tells me, he worked under Vijay Kelkar (the man who gave birth to the GST) and that the problem with the existing GST bill is it provides for a 1% additional tax on interstate trade or commerce. But the gent says, "the GST is destination-based taxation and this additional tax negates the basic principle of GST".

So much so for a good and simple tax?

The few printers I have spoken to state this is a good tax, but right now, with so many cooks brewing the broth, utter confusion reigns.

It's all most troubling!



Finally, I sign off by wishing Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk a happy birthday.

One way to spend Sunday is to re-read Pamuk's My Name is Red and listen to Mozart. As it has been stated that: "It has been proven time and again that newborns cry less and sleep better when they listen to Mozart."

Perhaps a good antidote for our printing presses.