Midnight Roll Out of GST in Parliament: At the stroke of the midnight hour, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was rolled out in the Parliament. It was the culmination of several months of deliberations and discussions. It was a historical occasion. Prime Minister Narendra Modi enlivened the proceedings by describing GST as good and simple tax. He gracefully acknowledged that GST was not any one party’s doing and thus displayed his statesmanship. The passing of GST is another feather in the cap of our resourceful and amenable Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who memorably stated, “GST will create one tax, one market for one nation and it will be India who will enter into a new destiny”. Well said and well done!
Hugs not Handshakes in Diplomacy: Our PM Narendra Modi does not hog the headlines, but has mastered the act of hugging world leaders with whom he comes in contact. Recently, he embraced President Donald Trump with abandon. There were some awkward moments. During the first Modi-Trump hug, the US President seemed a bit uneasy, but he later furiously patted Modi on the back and looked at him closely. When the two went back to their respective places, Modi held on to Trump’s hand for an extra second. The second hug was more relaxed as was the third when Modi bade goodbye to Trump and his wife, Melania. It is said that handshakes indicate distance and reserve while hugs show familiarity. But remember, too much familiarity may breed contempt.
Strange Notions of
Nationalism: Nationalism cannot be legislated nor can it be compulsorily imposed. Love for the nation must spring spontaneously from the heart. Singing of national anthem cannot be equated per se with nationalism. Likewise, not singing the national anthem cannot be condemned and punished as anti-national. The legislators in Philippines have strange notions of nationalism. It appears that Filipinos will be required to sing the national anthem with fervour when it is played in public under a Bill approved recently. Failure to do so is punishable with imprisonment and fine. The Bill also mandates that schools should ensure that students memorise the song.
National anthem has occasioned judicial dicta in several countries. Our Supreme Court has ruled that movie theatres are required to play the national anthem before screening and that moviegoers are required to stand up when it is played. In Thailand, the anthem is played at 8 am and 6 pm on loudspeakers in schools, offices and train stations. People are expected to stand still and be silent. In 2007, Thai lawmakers considered a Bill that would require motorists to stop their cars when the anthem was played. But good sense prevailed and the Bill was not passed. Chinese lawmakers have their own bizarre ideas of nationalism and have recently drafted laws to restrict where the anthem could be played and crack down on ‘malicious’ performances. In the USA, there is a non-statutory code which requires that people stand at attention facing the flag with right hand placed over their heart. It is imperative that every right-thinking person should stand up and counter vigorously this infection of spurious nationalism.
Obsession with Dress Codes: The Punjab government has come up with a new format of the Annual Confidential Report (ACR), wherein attire would be one of the criteria to judge a teacher’s performance. Under this format, marks will be given to those teachers who come to schools dressed properly. The ACR to be prepared by the principals who would keep in mind whether the teachers wore ‘provocative’ clothes or the ‘right’ outfits. Pray, what is the ‘right outfit’, and when does an outfit become ‘provocative’? There is no clarification and your guess is as good as mine. It is absurd that rather than focusing on improving the standards of education, the government is concerned about the dresses worn by teachers. Government in Punjab had faced flak recently over its controversial order directing female teachers not to wear jeans, tops and bright suits, as such outfits could have a ‘bad’ effect on the students— whatever that means! Fortunately, the government withdrew the order subsequently. One hopes wiser counsel will also prevail in the present case.
Soli J Sorabjee
Former Attorney-General of India