All the talk about Ease of Doing Business has come to be seen as a farce as the government’s raid raj is rearing its head again. As government agencies—Income Tax Department, Enforcement Directorate and now Competition Commission of India (CCI)—are showing unusual alacrity in swooping down on premises of firms and their promoters, the anger in the business community is becoming more palpable. The business community is not coming out openly to air their dissatisfaction, barring a few brave ones like the late Rahul Bajaj, against the institutional overreach. But they do talk in hush-hush tones.
The office premises of a large steel company and an auto manufacturer were recently raided by the ED and I-T Department. Premises of companies that are major sellers on large e-commerce platforms like Amazon and Flipkart were raided by the CCI, which usually does not do so unless in cases of cartelisation. The CCI, which has long maintained it would not kill innovation and digital economy for perceived fear of market dominance, seems to have gone overboard in the recent past in a couple of instances—the latest being raids on e-commerce sellers.
An aggressive income tax regime has always been seen as a nemesis to businesses. A hostile and complex GST regime is not helping the cause either. Not long ago, GST officers were accused of using violent means against non-compliant taxpayers, so much so that the Telangana and Gujarat High Courts had to say that no rules allow them to use such coercive measures. Some of these businesses that have been targeted are said to have supported political parties other than the one in power at the Centre. Some of the actions by government agencies against Chinese companies come across more as a retaliation against what is happening in the country’s northern borders. None of this looks good for the country’s business-friendly image.
The government that promised ease of doing business and non-adversarial tax policies for companies operating in the country seems to be going back on its word. It looks like revenue concerns and the need to keep some of its core supporters happy have got the better of the government’s priorities.