An antidote to joblessness: GST, Aadhar and the cow are all strategy

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By G Sampath

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Last Sunday was Father’s Day. As a dutiful son, I wanted to call my father and wish him but could not get through.

On most days it is impossible to get him on the phone. Not because he hates cell phones but because he likes them rather too much. He owns four handsets, all with double SIM. He has anywhere between four to eight numbers, which he uses the way hockey teams use rolling substitution.

At any given moment, only one number would be active. The other numbers would either be switched off or out of coverage area. The first eight contacts on my phone are my father – Appa1, Appa2, Appa New, Appa Old, Appa Latest, Appa Chennai, Appa Delhi, and Appa Enough.

The other day I had forgotten my phone at the Kerala Store and when I went back to get it, the man at the counter — one of those middle-aged Malayalee gents who think they are very witty — asked me how many fathers I have.

But of late, my father has been strangely unavailable even when we accidentally find ourselves at opposite ends of the same phone call. Generally it’s me who first starts saying ‘okay, bye’. But yesterday, he was the one in a hurry to hang up.

“What are you up to?” I asked him. “Suddenly so busy?”

“It’s GST,” he said. “I’m helping some people.”

“WHAT!”

I was shocked. “Are you telling me you’ve started doing GST work for other people when you still haven’t finished linking my PAN to Aadhaar and my Aadhaar to bank account?” I had also tasked him with extracting the PF money due from my ex-ex-ex-employer, which too was pending.

Before you accuse me of exploiting my father in his old age, let me assure you that this is a purely symbiotic arrangement. All through my student years, it was my father who managed all the paperwork — from application forms to admission forms, examination forms, bank challans, and assorted certificates.

You could say I am lucky to be blessed with a father who finds meaning in the pursuit of multiple, self-attested photocopies. It is because he finds joy in filing returns, booking tatkal tickets, and berating purposefully idiotic call centre executives that even as an adult, I have outsourced all banking, ticketing, bill payment, and tax-related work to him.

Now, thanks to our government’s mantra of maximum government, maximum red tape, his post-retirement days are more adventurous than my pre-retirement ones. While I return exhausted after a day spent staring at a screen, he befriends bank managers, offers marriage counselling to RTO clerks, and comes home with a bagful of stories. To top it all, he loves queues, where he gets to strike up conversations with woebegone strangers. I had to quickly import him from Chennai to Delhi to help us survive demonetisation.

“Don’t shout-da,” he said. “Do you know some poor fellows have to file three returns a month and 37 returns a year to be GST-compliant?”

“You must be so happy,” I said. “Isn’t this what you always wanted? Forms to fill, documents to collect, and all the time in the world to figure out who is exempted from what rule according to which sub-section under what conditions.”

“You know how it is with start-ups,” he said. “I don’t have all the time in the world.” “Start-up? What start-up?”

He then told me, a bit sheepishly, that he, along with twenty other retired men, had founded a start-up that offered GST and Aadhaar-related consultancy services. Apparently, it’s a thriving business that is set to skyrocket after July 1. They had also secured Series G funding to start a GST Law School that would offer an MBA in Paperwork Management.

Only then did it dawn on me: things like GST, Aadhaar, and cow were all part of our government’s brilliant strategy to eliminate joblessness. The plan is to generate so much paperwork that not only the employed but even the unemployed, including people who (to borrow my father’s phraseology) have one leg in the grave, are kept fully occupied. All the same, I was annoyed that he was de-prioritising his own son’s paperwork.

“When will you…” I began, but he cut me off, asking me to hold, as one of his other phones rang.

I could hear him clearly. “File GSTR-4 on the quarterly return for compounding the taxable goods by the 18th of the month succeeding the preceding quarter.”

“Can I…”

“No, no, Mr. Singaravelu, which rascal told you to fill GSTR-8? Stick to GSTR-3, with the monthly return on the basis of outward supplies and inward supplies along with the tax on your revenue at 18% by the 20th of the following month.”

“Appa, belated Happy Father’s Day!” I yelled, but I don’t think he heard. (The Hindu)

 

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