GST rollout on 1 July: With no trial run of software, govt now shouldn't be afraid of failures

The GSTN Chairman, Navin Kumar, has said there was no time for the trial run of GST software, with the rollout of the GST system irretrievably and irrevocably being fixed for the midnight of 30 June, 2017 so that transactions can go through from 1 July.

Neither GSTN nor its Chairman Navin Kumar is to be blamed for rolling out a seminal system such as GST without a dry run to iron out glitches if any.  BTW, there would be a hell of a lot of hardware related glitches because GST is premised on seamless internet connectivity across the country.  The government has been in a tearing hurry to rollout GST on 1 July as if to keep its tryst with destiny.  On the midnight of 14 August, 1947, the Indian Parliament did assemble at the ungodly hour to proclaim independence but was there any need for doing an encore especially when haste has the potential to run the roots and branches reforms project that GST is aground?  Political one-upmanship alas could take a costly toll of the Indian economy.

 GST rollout on 1 July: With no trial run of software, govt now shouldnt be afraid of failures

Representational image. Reuters

It is always wrong to put the cart before the horse but more so when a scheme that has the potential to transform the nation and its commercial practices so drastically is done so.  While there may be extenuating circumstances for not guaranteeing 24 hour nation-wide internet connectivity, there was none for not guaranteeing fool-proof software.  This could have been easily done by dry runs on the basis of hypothetical transactions of various sizes and shapes from across the country.

The hardware non-availability or hiccups would have drastic consequences with internet sweet spots like the metropolitan cities scoring over lesser ones.  The latter may come to be willy-nilly ostracized throwing up the ugly spectacle of social unrest a la farmer uprising across the country.  Alas the government had thought of BHIM like initiative or jugaad.  One’s Aadhaar card doubles in as her debit card when it comes to purchase of goods and services by those untouched by the credit card or debit card what with Aadhaar number being seeded into one’s bank account.  And these lesser mortals normally are also internet deprived i.e. without smart phones.  The government provides them temporary and fleeting internet access by dialing *99# that brings the trader and the customer’s bank together fleetingly to consummate a BHIM-aided transaction.

Something similar could have been thought of so that traders located in internet backwaters, so to speak, are not put at a disadvantage.  In the US, restaurants present the customer with their bills who promptly fish out their card.  The cashier swipes the card not to get the payment but only to generate a temporary number.  The waiter then returns the card with invoice to the customer who then adds a generous or small tip and goes away.  The accountant later on leisurely (within a week) swipes the card again this time round along with the temporary number generated during the business hours to get the payment including tips.  The first swipe was necessary only to find out if the customer had enough balance or limit.

Whether the US practice is desirable or not is not the point.  The point is if it offers a way out to our stressed GSTN which is soon going to contend with internet have-nots raising their voices in anger.  They should at least have the satisfaction that their invoices would not be rejected outright due to hardware (read internet) glitches but processed quickly enough to generate a temporary code which can be used leisurely to satisfy the fastidious GSTN system, may be during off-hours i.e. non-peak hours or ghost-shift time if you like.

Coming back to the hesitation to put through full-fledged sample transactions through the fastidious GSTN software, all one can say is the government should not be afraid of failure.  It is better to face failure and address the glitches immediately rather than bury head in sand ostrich-like.

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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2017 18:50:02 IST