Shambolic and Semiotic Symbolism

Shambolic and Semiotic Symbolism

The Goods and Services Taxation(GST) meeting held in Kashmir is defined by symbolism at every level.  There does not appear to be any substance to the meet other than a demonstration effect vis a vis Kashmir. The reference to symbolism and contestation thereof is not just rhetorical. It is based on substance and rational argument.  First a word on the nature of the technicalities of the GST . The tax is aimed at rationalizing the multiple indirect tax structures in India, create a single common market across India and generate economic efficiency. But taxation and the power of taxation is a very political issue. There then is politics embedded in the roll out of the GST regime. We are led to believe that the GST will lead to co-operative federalism  in India where states and New Delhi will operate co-operatively. But this is not correct because India is not entirely a federal state. It has a strong unitary bias. What the GST regime, if enacted, will do , is impact the fiscal and policy autonomy of states  in India by blurring the boundaries between states and the centre in the Indian union. Key to this is the GST Council where there is a clear asymmetry in the nature of power with a strong bias towards the Centre.   From a certain political perspective, the so called efficiency gains are outweighed by political costs. Another point which is relevant for Jammu and Kashmir is that the supposed benefits of rationalizing , streamlining and encouraging manufacturing will not hold. The reason is that Kashmir is not a manufacturing economy. It is a consumption oriented and consumer economy with a huge unorganized sector will take a hit. The taxing power of the state in Jammu and Kashmir, already weak, might also be affected negatively. In terms of the real and substantive politics of the GST vis a vis Kashmir, the point of holding the meet here appears to be political-supremely so.  It essentially amounts to stating that everything in Kashmir is normal and if there is an issue, it is about Centre State relations and its various dimensions. This is a conjurer’s trick. And it assumes significance at a time when Kashmir is at a critical juncture. A bottoms-up protest movement cutting across sections of society is demanding rights and protesting against injustice. The powers that be, instead of attending to this sentiment,  are merely interesting in holding a meet in Kashmir as a symbol aimed at attenuating the multiple issues here. All this is an exercise at obfuscation. Instead of symbolism and semiotic politics, what is needed is real, and substantive politics which, shorn of accretions, means the resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir.

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