BJP-NPPs daily snipe
Your newspaper reports on the daily name calling between the NPP and BJP; between the NPP and Congress and at times the BJP and UDP shows that all is not well in the MDA coalition government. What’s worse is the infighting in the BJP. Now a BJP legislator, Sanbor Shullai, who of course is larger than the Party and knows it, has thrown the spanner into the works by publicly declaring that the present BJP President, Ernest Mawrie was elected to the post by manipulation. This is an allegation that delegitimizes the BJP in Meghalaya. The BJP is yet to take roots in this hill state and it needs a leadership that is credible and cannot be challenged especially by its own party MLA. Interestingly, the BJP-in charge, Meghalaya, Dr M Chuba Ao, does not seem to be in touch with the party affairs here. Sanbor Shullai has actually said in so many words that under Mawrie the BJP is losing its grip over Meghalaya. The emboldens the BJP baiters like the NPP National President, and Chief Minister, Conrad Sangma to cock a snook at the BJP and to also dare the two MLAs supporting the present MDA Government to leave the coalition if the Party is unhappy. This is looking like a very inconvenient marriage. The constant taunt by the NPP and the bickering between the NPP and BJP over the Garo Hills District Council affairs makes it untenable for the BJP to be part of the MDA.
The BJP President revealed to the media the scams in the Garo Hills District Council, details of which he got via RTI. Since then the NPP has been badgering the BJP without showing even the minimum respect for a coalition partner. Of course the right thing to do for the BJP is to stop the bickering and tell its two MLAs to cut ties with the MDA Government. But the BJP President does not seem to have any control over the two MLAs who are both larger than the BJP and nor does he have their respect. Ernest Mawrie has a very unenviable task as BJP State President. I wonder what the rank and file in the BJP have to say about this entire imbroglio which has taken a very ugly turn and dented the image of the BJP in Meghalaya.
The BJP bigwigs in Delhi care two hoots about what happens to a small state with 60 MLAs and just 2 Lok Sabha MPs. Before the next Assembly elections, Amit Shah and Modi will both come and begin to woo people here and make big talk, without actually understanding what makes people vote a particular candidate. The BJP should know that in Meghalaya as in Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland fighting elections requires a lot of money. Both Sanbor Shullai and AL Hek have the money. Other BJP candidates will find it difficult to match them, at least monetarily. Moreover, people know that the BJP even at the national level only makes big talk about corruption. They don’t really care as long as they win elections. So much for, ‘Na khaunga, na khane dunga.’ Politicians, be it Modi or anyone else never say what they mean or mean what they say. Period!
Indian-Khasi or Khasi-Indian
The two part article, ‘On Being Indian and Khasi’ by Dominick Rymbai (ST Feb 17&18, 2021), is very thought provoking. It reminds me of Amartya Sen who said that as Indians our identities are and should be fluid. We have multiple identities depending on our race, religion and community and should allow this fluidity to prevail. The freezing of identity into an exclusive little domain in a country that once believed in diversity is fraught with grave consequences. A Khasi is an Indian and that should be gracefully accepted since our ancestors signed the Instrument of Accession into this country on their own volition and not under duress. In that sense it is a well considered view that acceding to India is no accident. We have to learn to live with that and give up the idea that we are a special people descended from some mythical umbilical cord and every other myth that makes us believe we deserve special treatment. We are Indians and are subject to Indian laws which also grant us 80 reservations in jobs and education by virtue of our scheduled tribe status. Let’s also learn to accept that no human species is unique.
Fuel price hike
Faulty and unfair system of taxation by the Central and State governments has led to frequent hike in fuel prices in India. In fact, Indians pay four times for a litre of petrol compared to crude oil prices. Governments levy high taxes, commissions and other charges on the consumers so that fuel prices do not go down significantly in India even when crude oil prices are very low. The government’s only response to the soaring fuel prices has been a deafening silence.
Fuel prices in India are fixed not in proportion to the international crude oil prices. Every time global crude oil prices increase, Indian oil companies pass on the increase on highly taxed petrol and diesel. If crude oil prices drop in the international market, prices in retail should come down too. But this does not happen most of the time. Statistics shows that even though crude oil prices dropped many times before and after the COVID-19 lockdown, Indians paid very high prices for petrol. This happens because every time crude oil prices fall, the government imposes fresh taxes. On May 5, 2020 when crude oil prices fell to Rs 14.75 from Rs 28.84 per litre, the government increased excise duty by Rs 10 per litre on petrol and Rs 13 per litre on diesel. In this way the government garnered an additional revenue of Rs 1.6 lakh crore.
Notwithstanding the drop in tax collection in other sectors, tax collection from fuel has not dropped. Fuel prices are revised daily and the government has no control over fixing prices. When oil prices fall, the government imposes taxes on the base price so that it gets sufficient revenue from the taxes. In fact, it is not right to tax fuel heavily. As fuel prices increase, it will lead to price rise. The poor will be at the receiving end and they will have to bear the brunt of price rise. Hike in fuel prices will adversely affect the poor and the lower-middle-class. It is ironic that while the government is determined to place an intolerable burden on the poor, it is reluctant to tax profits earned by super rich people.