As part of Delhi Dialogue, the initiative at the Aam Aadmi Party that I’m helping put together to draft AAP’s vision and manifesto for Delhi, we recently conducted Business Dialogue, an initiative to lay out the policy interventions that we propose to make Delhi the trade, business and services hub of India. Now before you reading anything that forms your opinion based on what I write, go watch the actual footage of #BusinessDialogue and have a look at what Arvind Kejriwal actually said. Our trade and industry policy will be based on the following ideas:
- Facilitating greater trade within Delhi by having trader-friendly policies
- Streamlining rules and regulations for running and establishing industry.
- Simplifying licensing procedures and providing single window clearances.
- Simplifying VAT and other tax structures of Delhi to ensure tax compliance.
- Easy tax filings and assessments with well-defined streamlines procedures.
- Providing better facilities like roads, water and electricity in Delhi’s Industrial Areas.
- Incentivizing entrepreneurship by providing capital at low rates and creating startup incubators.
- Establishing a large number of vocational training institutes in Delhi.
While we have several interventions for business and entrepreneurship as well, our first event focused on Delhi’s traders in a meeting at Nehru Place where the following specific announcements were made.
AAP Policy for Traders :
- Routine VAT raids will be shut down. Only in cases of unprecedented corruption and other exceptional situations, and approved by the highest officials will VAT raids be conducted.
- Simplification of VAT rules, processes and forms. 30 pages of VAT forms will be made into one simple page for traders.
- All transactions will be online. Traders will forget where the VAT office is!
- Reduce the interface with Delhi government. Licenses can be applied for and received at home. This will reduce the avenues and opportunities for corruption.
- We will ensure that starting a trade or business in Delhi takes at the maximum one week in total.
- Stakeholder participation of traders in any formation of Delhi trade policy will be made mandatory.
- Parking fee have been charged off many traders but they have not received any facilities, these will be provided as a right for those who pay such fees.
- One portion of the VAT from every locality and market will be used for the maintenance and upgradation of that market to foster future business and trade.
Now, instead of reporting these policy interventions and starting a healthy debate on industrial and trade policy of BJP and AAP, two esteemed news sources decided to go two different ways with this event. Let’s go through them one by one.
The most wonderful loudmouth of our times after Kanye West, Arnab Goswami decided to go with #KejriwalCasteCard instead of #TradePolicyforDelhi for obvious reasons. Negative and dishonest tags seem to do better with paid internet bots. They picked on one word used by Arvind, where he connected with the audience in Nehru Place, which had traders, street-hawkers and businesspersons from across the board. “Baniya”. Next came this.
This was followed by an arduous debate on television with my remarkably patient boss, Yogendra Yadav, trying to explain the difference between caste, jati, surname and occupation to people who would do better on Bigg Boss or Roadies than a TV news debate. Not Splitsvilla though. None of them will ever be able to find anyone to love them.
Yogendra Yadav even tried to bridge party lines by saying that Arvind was only trying to learn from our dear Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who also said that he knows trade and understands their troubles. My personal sense is that as an Income Tax Commissioner from the Indian Revenue Services, who has dealt with stakeholders in the business and trade economy, and as a Kejriwal (traditionally a trading community surname) whose extended family has many traders, Arvind has a much better locus standi to stake claim the word “Baniya” over a lifetime RSS pracharak whose primary business has been politics.
Anyhow, when schooled properly by the wise and thorough Yogendra Yadav, the BJP responded with what it knows best.
Muslim bashing! Yay! Also, if you have some time at hand, please do read about the Salim issue here. I know I’m going to be ridiculed for saying this, but Nupur Sharma’s logic or lack thereof makes me miss Sambit Patra’s face. Bring him back! Anyway, I thought, ArGo works for TV ratings and with the kind of debt these TV stations are running, they have to produce soap opera content. So, I thought, as the Beatles would say, Let it Be!
But when print media started doing it as well, I took notice. It started with the Economic Times. Shivendra Singh’s short report (most probably/hopefully edited down: because that just can’t be the takeaways from #BusinessDialogue) was given a title that focused on just one statement from this entire body of trade-related announcements and misrepresented the event completely. They either have a shoddy editorial desk which I find hard to believe considering there are wonderful writers/Assistant News Editors like my old-time quizzing friend Manimugdha Sharma or there are things that are just beyond reporting/editorial control. Well, orders are after all, orders.
The Economic Times probably has a discerning readership which is why they avoided a stupid headline in the very least, but again, the content is entirely wrong and misrepresents the video from the Nehru Place Trader’s meeting. I’ll explain more in a while. The Times of India is renowned for much more interesting standards. Here’s one prime example from their vast body of recent reportage.
The Times of India “Padukonified” this news report on AAP. The same content went up with “AAP calls online discounts ‘scam'”, while again Arvind Kejriwal said nothing of the sort which puts an umbrella accusation at all discounts. Arvind actually spoke about about predatory pricing and that it needs investigation if people consistently use seed money/capital to price goods below actual cost. This was particularly seen in the recent Flipkart Big Billion Sale Day, which has actually been looked into by Minister Nirmala Seetaraman and a complaint lies with the Competition Commission of India.
These huge discounts reduce the price of the commodity below marginal cost in the short run, kills the trading community and actually reduces competition and increases prices in the long run. Arvind Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party are against this type of predatory pricing.
E-commerce is a necessary and hugely important sector of retail and trade, and we have also made several announcements to help these services. Unfortunately, they didn’t find any column inches in these newspapers. Discounts via service, process or value upgradation are all perfectly fine. For example, if Amazon can keep books in a warehouse and eliminate the need for a bookstore which prices books more expensively, it may kill bookstores but it does so by improving the process. So only those people who want a bookstore’s experience and care enough for it to pay so much more, will pay for it. However, if companies price all their goods much below its cost of production itself consistently over time by bleeding money in losses they’ve raised as capital in various forms, that’s predatory pricing which is killing many jobs and traders. That’s something we’re against. Most European countries have laws against predatory pricing, US has regulations too and he actually just repeated the stand that a sane Competition Commission of India would uphold. And yet, this is what ToI does to what he said.
Lazy content aggregators kept repeating the gobbledygook that ToI reported.
It further deteriorates online as content creators and aggregators say that AAP opposes e-commerce and calls it an online scam. How wonderful. They actually aren’t even reading the second-hand misreported story which says exactly the opposite.
The game of Chinese whispers is complete. Here’s what Google News Search looks like here.
As this post spreads virally across the media, the vilification of Arvind Kejriwal and AAP is complete. The middle class masses which love e-commerce and now have been led to believe that Arvind and AAP want to keep Delhi in the dark ages and that they’re Luddites who hate e-commerce and lovely Flipkart ads like these. While none of that it is true. If you do want to know more about AAP’s policies for all sectors/constituencies of Delhi, visit Delhi Dialogue on: Facebook, Twitter, Email and Whatsapp.
All I can say is that there will be plenty more to come from the stable where this came from in the next few months. Every AAP supporter or detractor should feel free to criticize the Aam Aadmi Party’s work or policy or statements. But do it based on first hand information. Not based on what the media wants you to listen. So keep asking for the source. Keep asking why.
Why does this happen particularly when elections are round the corner?
Why is there a systematic method in which the propaganda machine attempts to influence your thought process instead of letting you see the truth?
Why do newspapers that cover every meeting held by Arvind Kejriwal to find the slightest slip-up or juicy gossip not report the fact that the BJP has started distributing saffron saris with a lotus on it in over 3000+ Jhuggi Jhopris in Delhi?
Why do news channels that want to trace back Kejriwal’s trader roots not report the stupidity of the Central government’s attempt to “authorize”/”regularize” unauthorized colonies in Delhi?
Why does the media not report the fact that almost every constituency in Delhi has new roads being inaugurated just before the Model Code of Conduct is applied in Delhi, months after they are functional (eg: the Sarita Vihar-Okha underpass near my house)?
Why does this free and fair media not talk about the polarization in Trilokpuri, the Mahapanchayat in Bawana and Dead Pig in a Mosque in Okhla: all traced back to a BJP leader or MLA in some way in every police report?
Ask yourselves why all this media hullabaloo on one comment on “baniya” on a day when Amit Shah went from being the prime accused, key conspirator, lynchpin and key accused in the Sohrabuddin Murder Case to being let free because of the convenient lack of evidence?
Why was Arvind Kejriwal’s caste or occupational origins in Delhi important enough for a half an hour debate but an insidious piece of legalese in the form of Land Acquisition Ordinance which negatively impacts millions of farmers of our country is not worthy of a mention? Instead of giving you a direct answer, I will give you a talisman, paraphrasing Gandhiji’s talisman.
The Media Talisman
I will give you a talisman. Whenever you are in doubt, or when TV news becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the loudest TV producer and popularity hungry journalist and the weakest owner of a news channel or newspaper whom you may have seen or heard of, and ask yourself, who is going to pay for his [her} media advertisements and front page ad before and after elections? Will he [she] gain anything by it? Will it restore him [her] control over his [her] company currently owned in some way by Messrs A%ani and co.? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom] for the hungry and psychotic internet bots and paid trolls who influence opinion by acting as millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.