Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s plan of making Goa cashless as a resolve toward fulfilling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream may have to overcome several problems. One of the major problems is poor connectivity. Traders often report ‘transaction failures’ when swiping customers’ cards. This happens all the time but mostly in the peak business hours of evening. There are a host of other problems. No wonder the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party prevailed upon Chief Minister, Laxmikant Parsekar to withdraw the November 30 circular issued by the commissioner of commercial taxes expecting businessmen to go in for cashless transactions within 10 days. While the government’s intention of going in for cashless transactions for better tax compliance is to be appreciated, it needs to remember that it cannot be done in a tearing hurry. It was pointless aiming to make Goa number 1 cashless state within a few weeks. The state government will have to revise the deadline of December-end to go cashless.
The idea to make the state economy cashless needs time because the infrastructure required is yet to be put in place. While demanding rollback of the circular issued by the commercial tax department asking business community to go in for cashless transactions, the state BJP leadership had blamed officials for displaying over-enthusiasm on their part and creating panic among the local traders. The BJP leaders had also accused the commercial tax department officials of intimidating traders to prepare themselves for cashless regime within the shortest possible time. After going gung ho over the demonetization drive that was said to be aimed at eliminating black money, the BJP leaders now feel that ushering in cashless regime in Goa could take between three months and one year, and that it should not be forced upon the people by setting a deadline, especially as Goa is a tourist state. While the BJP leadership might have denied that the demand for withdrawal of circular has not been made because the matter has been taken up by the Goa Human Rights Commission and the state Assembly elections are round the corner, it surely wants to send signals that the ruling side is doing something to mitigate the problems of the common man.
The BJP’s claim that it would take between three months and a year to go in for cashless transactions will surely slow down the drive initiated by various departments to implement the government decision. With elections to the state Assembly just a couple of months away, the ruling side seems to have realized that it might have to bear the brunt of public anger following the central government’s decision on demonetization and the state government’s decision to implement cashless economy in haste. With the government having already taken decisions which have hurt the common man, the BJP has realized that it should now speak, or at least be seen doing so, on the behalf of public to win their sympathy.
The ruling party and the government would not only like to be seen as public-friendly but also try to convey that the steps taken by them were meant to be in public interest. By trying to pass on the blame on the state bureaucrats for showing over-enthusiasm in implementing the government decisions, the BJP wanted to shrug off accusations of the traders and common people that the government was being harsh on implementing cashless transactions. Will the withdrawal of the circular be limited to the commercial tax department alone or other departments too would be asked to slow down? The withdrawal of circular has come as a realization that the plan to make the state economy cashless and make Goa as the first cashless state was over-ambitious. The flip side of the slowing down is that it could be seen as a precursor to the unwinding of the campaign against black money, giving an opportunity to BJP rivals to whip up passions ahead of elections to project the BJP as a party that does not know its mind. With the BJP having a hostile relationship with the coalition partner, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, it cannot afford to open another battlefront in dealing with the aftermath of the latest salvo against the government departments by projecting them as anti-people. Which way will the state government go? Will it revise its initiatives for ensuring tax compliance and use of less cash and set another goalpost for itself? The government has to choose between the devil and the deep sea and it remains to be seen how it wriggles out of the complex situation created by its own decision.