By:- Talmizur Rahman
While industry sector, or for that matter the entire business sector, has virtually crippled in India on the massive onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the service sector which technically comes under the industry sector has shrunken for an abysmal low for over the sixth month consecutively without even a ray of silver lining in the pitch black cloud. The scenario that has been ruling the roost in the service arena since about half-a-year is one of roadblocks in business operations accompanied by corresponding fall of demand. It is indeed seemingly doomful that the service division is facing a perpendicularly uphill task laced with threateningly slippery slopes in the matter of carrying forward its business. Had there been an iota of reasonable demand for services, the sector might probably have seen a spark of light at the end of the dark tunnel. Ominously enough, that is not to be, courtesy Government mismanagement and total failure on the Covid front. The Centre may be told that lighting ‘diya’, flashing mobile torch in the air at night after 9 pm, banging cymbals or beating the drum on the road is no answer to fighting the pandemic. Such approach smacks of glorification of primitive culture enveloped in the blackest of eclipse sans the light of scientific advancement.
With the service sector thoroughly squeezed between the devil and the deep and fathomless sea and inflow of business dividends stuck at the rock bottom, the sector cannot bear the burden of paying remuneration/salaries/pay to a large number of employees. As a matter of fact for its own survival, if of course ‘survival’ is the appropriate word, every unit of the sector is being compelled to downsize, rather drastically and in defiance of all elements of humanism, the strength of its employees. Tens of thousands, nay, lakhs and millions, of employees of the private sector (also some government sector like Central & state undertakings), including those on the service front are now jobless on the streets and almost literally starving. It is no more that a job is lost in one sector and sooner or later another one would be found for survival in another realm even if it be for lesser than two meals a day.
Another factor responsible for the ringing of the near death knell of the service arena is the steep rate of the GST fixed for different disciplines of the sector. The ground reality is that all educational institutions like the schools, colleges and universities have literally turned into grazing yards for cattle and other animals. The coaching institutes for jobs in realms like civil service, banks, clerical jobs etc are being forced to pay through their nose with the GST being as high as 18%. Indeed even in the pre-Corona days these coaching centres were confronted with an extremely tough predicament in making the two ends meet to keep the institutes running. Now that the economy of the people and the country & state is nose-diving to its nadir, it is now anybody’s guess as to how many parents would be able to afford to send their wards to avail such coaching or dream of a rosy future for their wards. This clearly indicates that in keeping with the ultra-rightist ideology of the ruling dispensation only sons and daughters of the rich and the affluent would be in a position to avail the much needed coaching and such jobs that constitute the cream of the administration.
Considering the penury and misery under which the teeming millions reel with a virtually paralysed economy all around far and near, if wisdom dawns on those God-fathers of Delhi who specialise in electrifying rhetoric and ski-rattling statements made from their ivory towers, it may be prudent to totally scrap the GST from the entire service sector or at least cut rate of the same down to a bare minimum. If only such a scenario comes to stay at last for a few years henceforth, the service sector may possibly see the light of the day in a few years from now. Emergence of such a scenario may partially add to the growth of the overall economy in the country. However, considering the ultra-rightist ideology of the ruling dispensation that only seemingly cares for the corporate honchos, the captains of the industries and the like and favours the lot with waiver of loans obtained from nationalised banks running into tens of thousands, nay lakhs of crores of rupees, issues like reducing or waiving GST totally for the service sector as a component towards general boosting the growth of the economy may sound like tying the cart before the horse for the Centre. After all, over the last six years or so, in terms of national perspective, the Centre has been apparently adopting the process of looking at India through the wrong end of the telescope. No wonder the ruling Sultans fail to see the sorry plight of the teeming crores across the country
Such a landscape sans money flow again has the negative effect of reducing the purchase power of the people. As a matter of fact for about a year even before Coronavirus was even heard of by the world, India’s economy was beginning to be eclipsed by a mounting slowdown mainly due to utter mismanagement by the ruling dispensation that accorded all focus on its Hindutva agenda and safronisation with apparently the sole motive of multiplying its vote bank in both arithmetic and geometric progression.
The result being that the economic slowdown rapidly began plummeting towards its nadir. Since then there has been no respite in the economic landscape despite all high talks by Delhi and Dispur. The advent of the Corona terror proved to be almost a death knell for the economy. Nonetheless, the powers that be sans think-tank and idea continued with its dupery of making towering statement as though the economic landscape is all rosy and flourishing. Unfortunately for India, such dupery and foolery serve as huge nourishment for the multitude reeling in the realm of lack of education, enlightenment, minimum knowledge of the nation, almost zero political maturity and the like. And thus the passage to power through our system of democracy is ensured to the political lot.
It is such a political dispensation that finally calls the shots in determining the economic policy of the nation. It is thus no wonder that the results have manifested in the form of economic slowdown, economic repression, economic nose-dive to the rock-bottom, loss of jobs, mounting unemployment while the multitude reel in misery, poverty, penury, lack of two meals a day, diseases (not just Covid), lack of healthcare, roving corruption and the like.
Today, strategies are being worked out like various schemes that pave the way for rampant corruption or schemes pertaining to payment of cash on a monthly basis to lakhs of families as the election approaches in some states with a view to gaining vote-bank advantage. Both the state government and the Centre go hammer and tongs in projecting such short term political strategies as economic policies. Instead India would have been much better placed to overcome the paralysis set in by the pandemic in different sectors had the policy been a permanent one based on ‘roti, kapda aur maakan’, laced with zero corruption.
The most unfortunate part of our polity is that food, clothing and shelter are seemingly the last items in the mindset of an ultra-rightist government. Under an ultra-rightist dispensation anywhere in the world, a 100% capitalist policy of the rich, by the rich and for the rich is projected as having elements of public welfare. This dupery again registers close to 100 percent success as the saying goes, “Democracy with illiteracy is hypocrisy with consistency.” So far as the term ‘illiteracy’ is concerned note may be taken that in India a person who with great difficulty can rightly or wrongly write his name is considered to be ‘literate’.
So far as the current paralytic economic gloom is concerned, the projection of highly political vote-bank strategies by Delhi and Dispur as economic policy to overcome the economic strangulation at both the national and state level can only lead to the biggest economic catastrophe witnessed since independence. In fact a catastrophe of sorts has already begun with the Centre withdrawing money from the Reserve Bank of India. One shudders if total bankruptcy could be not too far away.
Today the business sector, including the service realm which in reality is an engine of economic growth and job reservoir for lakhs, is almost totally stricken with paralysis while business shrinks resembling a deflated balloon. In that backdrop, the policy followed by the government as economic policy can only transform the nation into a beggars’ abode while all crimes including theft, robbery, killings , drug peddling, cheating and the like may be witnessed to rise beyond all imagination.