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Keeping up with the Blairs

Sir — The report, “Bliss at Blair home in time of war” (April 7), once again shows what a media blitz the war is. The interview with Cherie Blair was probably intended to come out at a time when the allied position in Iraq would be comfortable enough to rub in the feeling of “bliss” among the British, just as Americans were allowed to watch Tomahawk missiles, on prime time, chasing Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm. But the Blairs sicken — and not merely because the allied operation in Iraq has brought home other sights of wives crying over dead husbands and fathers mourning their dead children. It is because Britain is being fed the nauseating “happy family” syrup much too often. We had it during the birth of Leo and immediately after, when the Labour PM’s son was being given expensive education, and again when Cherie was hunting for a flat. There are other pictures that could get more attention, Mrs and Mr Blair!

Yours faithfully,
Mark Hollinghurst, Calcutta


Price of dissent

Sir — The editorial, “The VAT ransom” (April 3), is quite correct in guessing the reason behind traders’ opposition to the introduction of the value added tax, which is a more transparent system. It would be naive to believe that they are on the streets for the love of consumers. Nor is it believable that small traders in India would find the system too sophisticated. There is a provision whereby traders with an annual turnover of Rs 25 lakh can opt to pay tax at a flat rate proportional to their turnover and need not maintain the VAT accounts. VAT is running successfully not only in developed countries, but also in the developing nations like Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, where the level of education, degree of mechanization is no better than in India.

Traders’ opposition to VAT is strange because they have always been the worst critic of the existing sales tax regime. Compared to the present system, VAT involves simplified procedures and lesser taxpayer-tax official interface. In fact, even officers of the sales tax directorate find the proposed system much more scientific.

To get some idea of the real reasons behind the objection to VAT, let us take the example of the many chemists who manoeuvre the present system to their benefit. Medicine is presently under single point tax system and resellers of medicines (local shop owners who neither manufacture nor import medicine from outside the state) are not required to register with the sales tax authorities. Now, while making purchases from wholesale distributors, they pay tax on the wholesale price (say Rs 80 on a wholesale price of Rs 1,000 @ 8 per cent). But when they recover the tax from the consumer, they generally charge a higher tax on the retail price, which is substantially higher than the wholesale price (Say Rs 96 on a retail price of Rs 1,200 @ 8 per cent). The consumer is thus taken for a ride. If VAT is introduced, the retail level shop owners will come under its purview and they will have to account for their transactions. And they will have to deposit the entire amount they collect as tax to the government.

Yours faithfully,
Saubhik Datta, Calcutta


Sir — The report, “Price-hike jitters over VAT” (April 1), was disturbing. The common man is already penalized. The new VAT system will only complicate matters all over the country. The system may be suitable for the developed nations, but India with its myriad problems will find this difficult to follow. The proposal has triggered bandhs in West Bengal. The disquiet in other regions of the country also show that the opposition to its introduction is quite severe.

Yours faithfully,
T.R. Anand, Calcutta


Sir — Though the budget presented by the finance minister, Jaswant Singh, was hailed as an election budget, it is gradually becoming obvious that it has concealed more than it revealed about the government’s plans. The finance minister has found a wonderful way to mop up resources via the petroleum ministry which has already announced price hikes following the budget. The war clouds have only come in handy. There is also no doubt that the Central government will use VAT to its advantage once it is introduced, whenever that be. There is pressure on the empowered committee of state finance ministers headed by Asim Dasgupta which failed to come to a solution recently. Strangely, the Centre pays little attention to the other aspects of governance that could help the financial situation like reducing fraud and confiscating ill-gotten wealth which will automatically add to the coffers.

Yours faithfully,
B.S. Ganesh, Bangalore


Fitting the role

Sir — The latest passion of Hindi serial-makers is the portrayal of the mother-in-law-daughter-in-law relationship. The scales however tilt heavily in favour of the former. The daughter-in-law is still the outsider who is expected to turn a new leaf overnight, stifling her individuality. Although she is now fighting back, it is not a comfortable situation. The mother-in-law wins if the bahu stoops to her arrangement. She also wins if the latter does not, for then she becomes a martyr, suffering at the hands of a cruel daughter-in-law.

But why should such a tug of war take place at all' After all, the target should be a harmonious relationship and each individual is responsible for both its success and failure.

Yours faithfully,
Smita Toppo, Calcutta


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