Redrawing the Map

There were so many princely states in India that there was a disagreement even as to their number. Some historians say that there were 521 provinces, while some put the number over 550. On one end of the scale were the massive states of Kashmir, Hyderabad and Junagarh, each of the size of an European country; on the other end, tiny chiefdoms, or Jagirs, comprising a dozen or fewer villages.

These states owed their mid-twentieth-century shape and powers to the British. Starting as a group of traders, the East India Company had eventually moved towards a more authoritative position. The political dependence of these princely states was controlled entirely by the British. From the 1920’s, the Congress leaders pressed the former to at least beseech the British in being allowed a small political representation. Under the Congress, umbrella rested the All India States People Conference.

When, on June 3rd, 1947, it was announced that India would be liberated, the princely states were given a choice: they could either remain independent or join the new Dominion of India or the soon to be born state of Pakistan. The decision received a very ambivalent reaction: for some, it was a no-brainer—they decided to be part of the new Dominion of India; for others, however, the decision presented a dilemma. Under the pressure of the popular State People’s Movements and guided by the masterful diplomacy of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and V.P. Menon, most states acceded to India. Sardar Patel handled efficiently the integration of the princely states with his diplomatic skills and foresightedness. The problem of amalgamating over 550 independent states with a democratic self-governing India was difficult and delicate. He broke the unity of separatist princes. By August 15, 1947, all states except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir acceded to India.

HYDERABAD:
Hyderabad began life as a Mughal vassal state in 1713. Its ruler was conventionally known as the Nizam. 85% of the state’s population was Hindu, but Muslims dominated the army, police and bureaucracy. The Nizam, Osman Ali Khan Asif Jah VII, a Muslim ruler who presided over a largely Hindu population, choose to continue as an Independent state. His ambitions, if realized, would virtually have cut off north India from the south. Sardar Patel, in his own words, called an independent Hyderabad a “cancer in the belly of India”. The state congress, however, demanded that Hyderabad fall into line with the rest of India. The Nizam had the Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen, which wished to safeguard the position of Muslims in administration and politics. Kasim Rizvi, the leader of the Razakars (volunteers of Ittehad-ul-muslimeen), told Sardar Patel that if the government pressurized the Nizam into signing the instrument of succession, the Hindu community in the state would face the consequence.

When the Nizam boasted of anti-India feelings and let loose a blood bath spearheaded by the Razakars, Patel decided upon police action. He ordered the army to march into Hyderabad. Indian forces took over in just five days. The mission, called ‘Operation POLO’, led to massive communal violence, with hundreds losing their lives. Eventually, however, the Nizam surrendered, and Hyderabad acceded to India.

KASHMIR:

Kashmir, being a border state, had yet to decide its fate. The then monarch, Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu ruler of a majority of Muslim population, decided that Kashmir would remain an independent state. On 22nd October 1947, however, locals and tribal men backed by Pakistan invaded Kashmir. The Maharaja tried to ward off the attack, but at last appealed for assistance to the Governor General Louis Mountbatten. Mountbatten agreed to help on the condition that Kashmir had to accede to the Indian dominion.

The instrument of accession was signed on 26 October 1947 and accepted the next day. Once the document was cemented, Indian soldiers entered Kashmir in order to evict the raiders.

This, however, was one of the many relationships that saw a dead end amidst political agony. Kashmir still sees the conflict on a daily basis and has been a major bone of contention between the nations of India and Pakistan.

JUNAGADH:

Among the states that had not signed the Instrument of Accession was Junagadh, which lay in the peninsula of Kathiawar in western India. Like Hyderabad, Junagarh had a Muslim ruler and a primarily Hindu population. Its main port was 325 nautical miles from the Pakistani capital of Karachi, which was another reason that sparked the new government’s worry.

The Nawab of Junagadh, Mohammad Mahabat Khanji III, was an eccentric character. In the summer of 1947, while he was on holiday in Europe, the existing Diwan was replaced by Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, a leading Muslim League politician from Sindh, who had close associations with the Pakistan government. After the Nawab returned, Bhutto pressed him to join Pakistan and stay out of the Indian union.

On 14th August 1947, Nawab Khanji chose to accede to Pakistan, citing that Junagadh adjoined Pakistan by sea. V.P. Menon went to negotiate with the Nawab, but the ruler refused to see him due to an illness. Menon met with Diwan Shah Nawaz instead, who said that he would favour the issue being decided upon by a referendum.

After the meetings failed, a provisional government was setup in Junagadh. The government became the wheel of popular agitation against the Nawab, who had, in the meanwhile, fled to Pakistan. After a few days of contentions, the Diwan announced that the administration of Junagarh would officially be handed over to the Indian government. The Indian government organized the plebiscite. Consequently, a referendum in February 1948 resulted in over 90% of the electorate votes being in favour of the state acceding to India.

With great skill and diplomacy, and using both persuasion and pressure, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel succeeded in integrating hundreds of princely states into the Indian union. However, one must not forget the considerable role played here by the existence, or at least the potential presence, of mass pressures. Some states had shown realism and nationalism by joining the Union in 1947. The majority of princes, however, had stayed away and a few, such as those of Kashmir, Junagadh and Hyderabad, had publicly announced their desire to claim an independent status. The former rulers were given the title of “Raj Pramukhs”. Additionally, they were allowed to retain their personal privileges, along with tax free privy purses.

This is largely how the present India came into existence. After attaining independence from the foreign rulers, as well as from the Indian ones, the people of India established their own rule, that is, democracy.

Today, with faith in their own ability and their will to succeed, the people of India are set to change the face of their country and build a just, egalitarian and good society.

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Decoding Article 370

Once upon a time, there was a king who ruled freely but its own defense was not so strong, one day the king’s land was attacked from one side and the aggressors were raping women, killing children and were destroying everything which came in their way in order to kill the ruler and get the land. 

The ruler was under great pressure from its own people and in order to save himself, he signed a pact with the other neighboring nation, which helped the ruler to remove the aggressors from the major portion of his land and in the end signed a treaty with an outside help of a third organization. The Ruler was Maharaja Hari Singh of Jammu & Kashmir, the aggressors were Pakistan and India helped the king to defend his own land. United Nations pressurized the Indian and Pakistani govt. to end the war in Kashmir. This is what exactly happened in 1948. 

 The real story of Kashmir is much more complex than the story I told you, to understand it better you need to join me in a ride to pre-independence J&K- One of the largest princely states of India, Jammu and Kashmir had a Muslim majority but a Hindu ruler, the states army was confined to ceremonial purposes and their internal matters were seen by the ruler so the region always enjoyed autonomy and people use to feel independent. In 1947 when Britisher’s were going to leave they asked the princely states to either join one of the two dominions ( India, Pakistan) or stay independent.

Maharaja Hari Singh the then Ruler of Jammu and Kashmir decided to be an Independent country stating the excuse of autonomy that Kashmir always had even during the British rule.  But due to the misshaping of 1948, the Jammu & Kashmir became an Integral part of India.

Article 370 is exactly the same, it gives certain autonomy to Kashmir over other states. Initially, Article 370 actually gave certain advantages to J&K but today these advantages are marginalized due to the intervention from judiciary like for eg earlier Kashmir used to have its own Prime Minister but later this post was reduced to Chief Minister.

 

Article 370-

  •  According to the Constitution of India, Article 370 provides temporary provisions to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, granting it special autonomy. 
  • The article says that the provisions of Article 238, which was omitted from the Constitution in 1956 when Indian states were reorganized, shall not apply to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Except for defense, foreign affairs, finance and communication, all other laws passed by Indian Parliament need to be passed by the state government before they are made applicable.
  • As a result of this, the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir are governed by state-specific laws which come under the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, instead of those for the rest of India, especially where citizenship, ownership of property and some fundamental rights are concerned.
  • This article, along with Article 5 that defines the contours of the jurisdiction of Indian Parliament regarding lawmaking for the state, cannot be amended.
  • The State can have its own flag.
  • The agreement opposed the imposition of Article 352, empowering the President to proclaim a general emergency in the state.
  • The state legislature has a six-year term, unlike other elected bodies, which have a five-year period, including our Parliament.
  • The Indian Supreme Court has no jurisdiction in J&K.
  • Disrespecting the Tricolour and other national symbols is not a crime in the state.
  • J&K residents enjoy dual citizenship. They will lose their J&K citizenship if they marry residents of other states.
  • RTE, RTI, CAG, and majority of Indian laws are not applicable in the state.
  • Because of Article 370, no outsider (anyone who is not a native Kashmiri) can purchase land in J&K. (Text: Mail Today)

All these things constitute article 370, We can say that Kashmir is somewhat like Hong-Kong for China. A question that arrives in the mind of people is that, what was the need to give Article 370 to J&K when Maharaja Hari Singh signed the same Instrument of Accession as other rulers did. Well it is a very legitimate question, surprisingly Article 370 was not discussed in the constituent assembly and Dr. B. R. Ambedkar rejected to draft this article but it was added in our constitution because our first Prime Minister wanted it. I would like to throw some light on this question without defending or going against the inclusion of Article 370. Kashmir occupied

Jammu & Kashmir always had a self-rule, the princely state had its own army, own laws, own finance even during the British time. Earlier during the Mughal period to Jammu was never an integral part of India. In 1948 when the first war over Kashmir ended, Pakistan took the 30% Kashmir’s land which is now known as the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK) because of which a plebiscite which was suggested by the UN could not be conducted. India’s viewpoint is that first Pakistan should free the land and Pakistan’s view is that first India should remove its army from the land. Stuck between these two countries now Kashmiri’s feel cheated as the Kashmir of 1947 is not there, 20% went to the Republic of China and 30% is with Pakistan. Now withstanding with these big issues Article 370 gives certain privileges to Jammu and Kashmir and brings Srinagar closer to Delhi keeping it an integral part of India.

A Starters Guide To GST

The Lok Sabha had recently passed the much-awaited Central Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, after opposing all the changes put forward by the Opposition. All the four bills that were moved by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the lower house were passed by voice vote. The remarkable GST regime is now closer to meet its July 1 objective of the rollout.

What is GST?
The GST proposes to unify India into a common market with a single tax across all states, which aims to eliminate the present cascading effect of the central taxes. But the real motto of the GST which was “One country, one tax” could not completely meet demands. Thus the GST that was finally tabled and passed in both the houses will have a few components to it.
 CGST
Central taxes namely include Central Excise Duty, Additional Customs Duty, Additional Excise Duty and Service Tax will all be merged into one CGST.
 SGST
State taxes such as VAT, sales tax, purchase tax, entertainment tax, mandi tax, luxury tax, octroi and entry tax will be subsumed into SGST.
• IGST
Integrated GST will be levied and collected by the Centre on the inter-State supply of goods and services.
So now center will levy the Central GST and Integrated GST, while states will impose the SGST.
The new GST regime is to have a four-slab structure of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%.
Items such as rice, wheat, and other essential items have been excluded from the tax regime, these items constitute 50% of CPI (Consumer Price Index) inflation basket.
The lowest tax slab of 5% is proposed for items of mass consumption i.e. they are widely used by common people such as spices, tea, and mustard oil.
The tax slab of 12% and 18% will majorly cover most of the manufactured goods and services.
The highest tax slab of 28% will be imposed on items like luxury cars, tobacco and aerated drinks and so on. These items are currently attracting a taxes varying from 27-31%.

What is in for the States?
The Compensation Bill has been introduced to ensure that states will be compensated for the initial five years if they incur revenue loss after GST is rolled out. The compensation money shall be generated from the compensation fund created from cess that the center will impose on certain goods.

How will the dual control on assessing taxpayers work?
The Centre and states will both assess taxpayers having an annual turnover of Rs 1.5 crores, whereas the states will have the power to assess taxpayers below Rs 1.5 crores in turnover.

For North Eastern states those with an annual turnover of Rs 10 lakh or below will be exempt from the ambit of GST, for the rest of India this limit is Rs 20 lakh.

How will GST impact inflation?
Initially, GST may lead to a higher inflation as many services and manufactured products get costlier and as compliance improves. However, GST is expected to help moderate inflation in the medium to long term as the cascading impact of taxes goes. As, predicted by most of the Indian economists.

Way forward?
On one hand, the Government is rushing its way, on the other hand, there is a  clause which still needs to be notified properly and one of them being the anti profiteering clause in the GST regime which has left the India Inc with contemplations and cold feet.
Anti profiteering aspect – Clause 171(1) of the GST Bill provides that any reduction in rate of tax on any supply of goods or services, or the benefit of input tax credit shall be passed on to the recipient (consumer) by way of a commensurate reduction in prices. There are many aspects that are currently open ended.
Industry representatives have spilled out their anxiety on the same. To begin with the term ‘commensurate’ is not defined. While pre-GST figures (such as profits) will be compared with the post-GST numbers, the basis of valuation itself will be different under the old laws and under GST. For instance, a product could currently be taxable on MRP basis at a central level and against the billing price in a state, they point out. The issue also remains on whether anti-profiteering will be seen on a pan-India basis or state to state. For instance, in one state after the implementation of GST, the tax rate could be lower. Will an average pan-India figure be considered to determine whether the benefit of reduction in tax rate has been passed on? Also will the profit analysis be done at the entity level or product level? The rules that should provide clear guidelines to all these issues, is the wide sweeping comment across India Inc.

To sum up facts, the GST is an indirect tax which demands that the tax is approved till the last stage where it is the consumer of the goods and services who bears the tax. The GST will substitute most other indirect taxes and synchronize the differential tax rates on mass-produced goods and services.