July 2, 2017

Speaking at GST Event, Bengaluru

…2% extra, or whatever is the product, should that not change ladies and gentlemen? And if somebody can change that situation, it is the government today, which is willing to bite the bullet, willing to make tough decisions, willing to take sometimes politically difficult decisions, but decisions in the interests of the people of India, decisions which are in the interests of the nation.

A professor once asked a student, set of students in a class that I am going to give you a surprise test. And, what did he do in the surprise test? He took a blank piece of paper which had a dot in it. Something like this, and he asked the whole class, what do you see? What do you see, ladies and gentlemen? What do you see?

The problem is that most people focus on that dot. They forget that this is a large piece of white paper with a small dot on it. GST is something like that, obviously, when you make such a transformational reform, there are going to be some difficulties, there will be some concerns. It will take some time for people to understand. I am sure even the organisers of today’s programme must have faced some difficulties. They might have found out that we have to fit the photos of Bharat Mata, Deendayalji and Shyama Prasad Mukherjeeji, अभी उसको कैसे अच्छी तरह लगायें, there is no wall there. It’s only a curtain. So, they have put up some chairs behind and on that the photos are resting. Tension भी हुआ होगा कहीं गिर नहीं जाये|

They have put a lamp over there, because political leaders are used to lamp lighting ceremonies, they know that if you have a normal lamp, the wick will never catch fire easily. वह guest उठाके वहां खड़ा रहेगा, lamp will not catch fire. So, what do you do? You put a little camphor over there, right? Even in organizing a small progamme like this, they have made sure that everything is clean. But, I promise you if I walk around the place, I may find some small spec of paper. What would you expect me to do if I see that? Lift it and put it in the garbage! Or should I start cursing these organisers, क्या बनाया है, कचरा भी नहीं हटाया है, देखो उधर कचरा पड़ा है एक पीस, ढूंढना पड़ेगा | वैसे काम अच्छा किया है किधर दिख नहीं रहा है |

देश का mindset बदलने की आवश्यकता है | The country needs  a change in the way we have worked for 70 years, and changing the mindset of 125 crore individuals, ladies and gentlemen, is not an easy task. And, each one of you today, I would appeal to you, should take a pledge that you will become the ambassadors of that change, you will become the pallbearers of that change.

In our own businesses, don’t we face difficulties every day, every small thing. When I was a young boy, when I was in 12th standard to be precise, I started my entrepreneurial journey. Of course, some of you or a press person can report that it was illegal, because I was not even 18 at that time. But, I started my working life at that time. I was studying for Erwin College and started working on a factory. Those days computers were not there. I remember writing sales registers. You have to have a separate sales register for excise duty, because it was a different department, different format, different officer, different assessment, different harassment. Then there was a sales tax officer, in those good old days there was no VAT, same story. There was an entry tax register I had to maintain, same story. There was a profession tax register I had to maintain, and the list went on and on.

And if any of you is running an industry or a factory, I will tell you what was the worst thing that could happen to me, at least. Normally, I would sleep peacefully at night. But, if on any day I reached my factory and if a white ambassador car was standing at the entrance, you all know what a white ambassador car means. And, if it has on top of it, pardon me, I know that there is one officer from Central Excise over here who has come to assess me if you ask some very tough googly or something, some tough technical questions. I have requested an officer to be here. But, if on that white ambassador in the back, and if you remember the good old days, it used to have a round circle at the back, board of Customs and Central Excise. If you reach the factory and you see that white ambassador standing there, the first question in your mind is, आज रात को घर जायेंगे कि नहीं जायेंगे |

You remember that? And the story continues, sales tax, after it became VAT, then introduced service tax. But, ultimately, what does an entrepreneur or a businessman want? He wants fair and equal opportunity to do business, to do honest business. We are all willing to pay our taxes honestly. There are 3 situations in my humble opinion, why tax evasion takes place. There is one set of people and my own belief is that my country and my countrymen are basically honest, nobody wants to cheat, nobody wants to do illegal transactions. We are a country of proud people. We believe in the law. We want to respect the law. We will pay our taxes honestly.

But, what do I do if in my market there are 10 shops. Two people don’t pay their taxes honestly. And I am one of those other 8. Now, his goods are becoming cheaper, because he doesn’t pay his taxes honestly. I am not able to compete with him. Customers say, तुम बहुत ज्यादा पैसा मांगते हो, हमको बिल नहीं चाहिए भाई, सस्ता माल चाहिए | They will go to his shop. What do these 8 do? There is that English saying, if you can’t beat them, join them. And, gradually, whole marketplaces have become full of shops, which are all evading taxes and in some places I am told even the officers can’t enter, if they enter they will get beaten up by everybody over there.

And, gradually, customers have also started accepting that this is the norm. Evasion has become the norm in many areas. A delegation of people met me from an industry, I will not name the industry. They said you tax the material in the factory that is alright. But, at the shop, please don’t tax us. We don’t have to keep record at the shop. Sadly, this has become the thinking. It’s not that we like to do it. Many people have been forced to do it. Of course, there is one section of society, which in their blood they don’t want to pay taxes. There is a small section like that.

Somehow, I think their heart does not beat for India. Somehow, they don’t realize that when they are evading taxes, they are actually eating the second meal of some poor family in a distant village who could otherwise have got this money if they had paid their taxes honestly. Somehow, they don’t realize that there are still nearly 4.5 crore families who 70 years after independence don’t have electricity in their homes. And, that child over there cannot compete with our children, because he’s even not got electricity, where will he get connected to Google, to internet, to modern

Next Speech

July 2, 2017 Speaking on GST with India TV

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