Raucous “Debate”

Raucous “Debate”
The word “raucous” perhaps best describes the debate over the Goods and Services Tax( GST )formulation and implementation in Kashmir. Noisy and loudly disturbing, the so called debate degenerated into a slanging match. And given that the PDP-BJP coalition has a majority, the GST bill was passed regardless. The prelude to the debate in the Assembly was resistance and protests by traders and their respective associations over both the nature of the GST, its formulation and implementation. However, despite this resistance and protests and after the arrest of the main protagonists of these, the bill was passed. All this raises a set of points. One is that the whole GST affair in Jammu and Kashmir was a top down one where the administration neither adequately nor convincingly informed the masses over the GST and its ramifications. Two, while the “mainstream’ opposition parties opposed the bill, it was of a tepid nature. Third, the resistance demonstrated by the traders groups petered out soon after its leaders were arrested. All these, especially the third point, raise issues about the nature and denouement of “collective action” and mobilization by interest groups like traders bodies in Kashmir. The coherence of their protests against administration’s decrees and courses of action loses its sting the moment the administration counter mobilizes against these. Trade and commercial bodies, professional associations and guilds are an important aspect of society’s interest groups. They aggregate and even articulate the interests of their members and , at times, even that of society as a whole. The articulation of the interests that these represent must be coherent and cogent and not based on ad hocism as happens in Kashmir. By their very nature, interest groups like traders bodies are important pressure groups that can and must act as a corrective to flawed and badly conceived policies which are welfare reducing and diminishing for the masses. Now returning to the theme of the raucous and noise debates, it stands to reason that those debating the bill have been found wanting in terms of the standards of propriety and good behavior. Rude language and unsavory terms all beamed and flashed into multiple forms of media coupled with aggressive behavior was and is odious. All in all then both interest cum pressure groups suffer from a structural debility insofar as their coherence and sustainability of their programs are concerned.

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