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Wrong priorities

EducationWorld March 2020 | Postscript

In mid-February four men in white linen attire walked into a liquor shop in the central business district of south Mumbai and demanded a list of documents and licences from the owner. After examining them, they highlighted several acts of omission and commission of proprietor Ashok Patel and demanded a bribe of Rs.7 lakh to overlook and regularise them.

Except as reported by a Times of India correspondent (February 20), this time these faux government officials had targeted the wrong man. Patel is well-versed in trapping such extortionists. He locked the doors of his retail store to prevent their escape and called the police. Thus far this gutsy businessman has trapped 121 extortionists including a police inspector and several sales-tax officials.

Although inspector raj extortion, in effect informal taxation, is a cross which long-suffering MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) businessmen routinely bear, only rarely is it reported in the media. One of the most egregious instances of such extortion was reported several years ago when Laloo Prasad Yadav — now languishing unlamented in prison for corruption — was chief minister of the benighted Hindi heartland state of Bihar (pop.105 million). On the occasion of the wedding of one of his nine children, his goons drove away with several cars from a Tata Motors showroom and returned them after the big fat Indian wedding of the daughter of this self-styled champion of the poor was concluded.

In drawing rooms across the country such anecdotal narratives of extortion and plunder of struggling businessmen are routine, with the law, order and justice systems designed by the socialist dispensation reduced to a cruel joke. Last September the BJP/NDA 2.0 government at the Centre decreed a Rs.1.45 lakh crore corporate income-tax cut to incentivise the country’s businessmen to expand capacity and promote greenfield enterprises. The government seems unaware that since 2014, forsaking the 1.3 billion Indian marketplace, 23,000 dollar millionaires have migrated to other countries where businessmen and entrepreneurs are appreciated for tax generation and jobs creation. Hon’ble PM, FM and HM, wake up! Ease of doing business is all about maintenance of law and order and justice delivery, not tax incentives.

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