<b>Sliceoflife<b>: Kindly Adjust
Like it or not, GST is here to stay. So leave that armchair activism behind and get used to it
A few months ago, when demonetisation was announced, there were protests, mostly on on social media, pictures shared of long queues and sharply divided arguments on merits and demerits. Within a couple of weeks, the fuss died down and everybody adjusted to the new situation. Thanks to demonetisation, I now pay the guy who irons my clothes, the guy who delivers newspapers as well as my house help through bank transfers and credit cards. Earlier that was never even an option. Today all of them have bank accounts and operate them easily. When any new measure is introduced, there is bound to be dissent and dissatisfaction, till the benefits are reaped.
The buzzword these days, as well as the most dreaded word is GST. Anywhere you turn, it stares you in the face, like the spies of Lord Varys, the spider in Game of Thrones. You cannot escape it. Sooner or later your paths will cross.
Companies are cleverly using it as a ruse to get in more customers. Furniture manufacturers are using ‘GST Pre-clearance sale’ and announcing that you will never get it at the prices currently being offered. Shoe manufacturers, boutique owners and everyone else who has a business is having “pre-GST offers.”
The thing about a change being introduced is that it spawns arm chair activism. Anyone with access to a smartphone makes live videos which are uploaded and aired in a jiffy. I watched a video a little while ago, by a news channel, where a woman journalist addressed the finance minister, and stated that he needed to have a woman in the room while making such a decision as any woman would have told him that Parle G biscuit, which is available at Rs 2 for 8 biscuits should have been exempt from the tax. She emphasised that the women across the country fed their babies with these biscuits mashed in milk, as they couldn’t afford baby food like Cerelac. She said she was okay with all other varieties of biscuits taxed, except Parle G.
I do not know if any studies were made to see the percentage of women who fed biscuits to their babies in place of baby food. Also even if a small percentage of women did that, it is appalling as the nutritional value from these biscuits is zero. There is no iron, calcium, vitamins, dietary fibre — nothing. The percentage of all of the above essential nutrients is zero. In fact, it is harmful for babies as it has emulsifiers, baking powder, salt, preservatives and vegetable oil. If a majority of women are indeed using it to feed their children, then the need of the hour is a massive nutrition awareness campaign.
Curious to further investigate the truth behind this claim, I reached out to a tiny sample size which was within my immediate reach. I spoke to my house help and some women who work as labourers at a construction site close by, they told me they would never feed their babies with biscuits. They preferred ragi (which is high in nutrition) which costs about Rs 4 for 100 gm.
The fact is when such videos are put out in the social media, and the person speaks with a lot of conviction and strong opinions, it is easy to get swayed and believe what they say. People are quick to share videos, without really thinking about it.
Consider this: a biscuit packet, which costs Rs 2, would become Rs 2.36 when 18 per cent GST is calculated. Earlier with sales tax, it was 2.30. The difference in price is so miniscule it isn’t even noticeable. But the video has garnered more than 327K views when I last checked. Many comments left on the video talk about how unfair it is that the prices will increase. There are some comments by people berating the “folks in ivory towers who do not feel for the poor of the country.” Cudgels are being taken up on behalf of the “poor who are suffering as the price of their favourite baby-food-biscuit has increased from Rs 2.30 to Rs 2.36.”
When I first heard the term GST, it sounded suspiciously like a train a station in the Mumbai being renamed: remember VT which is now CST? Nobody remembers VT anymore. Soon GST will be elevated to that status. Nobody will remember the good old ST and VAT anymore.
Like it or not, GST is here to stay, and it is taking over our lives. In true Bangalore style, the best way to deal with it is swalpa adjust maadi. (Kindly adjust).
(Preeti Shenoy is the author of eight bestselling books,the latest being a fiction titled It’s All In The Planets)
Preeti Shenoy