- November 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- March 2016
- February 2016
- January 2016
- December 2015
- November 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- October 2014
- September 2014
- August 2014
- July 2014
- June 2014
- April 2014
- March 2014
- December 2013
- November 2013
- October 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- July 2013
- June 2013
- May 2013
- April 2013
- March 2013
- February 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- December 2011
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- February 2009
- January 2009
- December 2008
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008
- July 2008
- June 2008
- May 2008
- April 2008
- March 2008
- February 2008
- January 2008
- December 2007
Goods and Services Tax [GST] is a broad-based, comprehensive, single indirect tax which will be levied concurrently on goods and services across India. It will replace most of the Central and State indirect taxes such as Value added Tax (VAT), Excise Duty. Service Tax, Central Sales Tax, Additional Customs Duty and Special Additional Duty of Customs. GST will be levied at every stage of the production and distribution chains by giving the benefit of Input Tax Credit (ITC) of the tax remitted at previous stages; thereby, treating the entire country as one market. Introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in India is perceived to be the most ambitious initiative in the arena of indirect tax reform. It would change the Indian tax structure and pave the way for modernization of tax administration.
Already GST bill has been approved by both the houses of Parliament and getting approved by State assemblies. It needs fifty percent or 15 assemblies to approve for getting Presidential assent.
It is unfortunate that no discussion is taking place about this GSTN and it would be most appropriate if the Finance Ministry comes out with clarifications and also make GSTN a government company which can be audited by the CAG.
Acompany has been set up primarily to provide IT infrastructure and services to the Central and State Governments, tax payers and other stakeholders for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) is a Section 25 (not for profit), non-Government, private limited company. It was incorporated on March 28, 2013. The Government of India holds 24.5% equity in GSTN and all States of the Indian Union, including NCT of Delhi and Pondicherry, and the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers (EC), together hold another 24.5%. Balance 51% equity is with non-Government financial institutions. The Authorised Capital of the company is Rs.10 crores ($1.5 million).
As politicians argue fiercely and persistently over the nitty-gritty of this long-awaited and ambitious indirect tax reform that promises to make India a common market, the organisation responsible for creating and managing the complex IT backbone that will make GST operational, the Goods and Services Tax Network(GSTN), has moved, without fanfare, into glitzy new headquarters at Worldmark I, part of a vast commercial multi-storey chain owned by Sunil Mittal-promoted Bharti Realty.
The 30,000 square foot space that GSTN occupies on the fourth floor couldn’t be a bigger contrast to its cramped quarters in Hotel Janpath in central Delhi, a temporary base of operations after it was incorporated in March 2013. There is little to suggest that this Section 25 (not-for-profit) company is a government organisation in which the Centre and states hold 24.5 per cent each (a clutch of banks and private sector institutions hold the rest).
With its carefully delineated spaces, clean lines and such stylish trimmings as jazzily coloured “breakout rooms”, a canteen where it is compulsory for all staffers, chairman downward, to eat, and a “ladies’ room” for expectant mothers to rest, this could readily be mistaken for the office of a Private Equity (PE)/ Venture Capital (VC) funded IT start-up run by a 30-something entrepreneur. The ambience is not accidental either. As GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar had told Business Standard a year ago, “The idea is to create an entity that is under the strategic control of the government but will have the flexibility of the private sector.”
As if to highlight the difference, a racy blue, red and green logo, created by the National Institute of Design, adorns a banner at the airy reception area and the visiting cards and stationery. These are only the outward signs of the solid, if low-profile, progress the organisation has made to get the IT infrastructure ready for when this long-delayed tax becomes a reality. A world away from the din of political rhetoric over rates, the shape of the law, minimum applicable thresholds and, most recently, the prospect of a 1 per cent inter-state tax, GSTN has made some robust progress.
Government has given GSTN Rs.320 crores ($47.88 million) for funding companies to purchase hardware needed for the system and are going to give some more money.”
Asked about the government’s initiative to connect products and SME customers with start-ups to GST platform, Prakash Kumar [CEO] said a few start-up companies have already begun to approach the government and suggest innovative ideas of developing applications to help them connect their products and SME customers to GST platform.
“A couple of start-ups came to me, and one of them I met was zapped by their innovation. Yes we need very innovative start-ups to add value to the GST platform. We need at least 10 to 12 such applications developed by start-ups,” he added.
It was the speech of Budget, 2010-11 when the then Finance Minister – Shri Pranab Mukherjee announced the setting up of a “Technical Advisory Group for Unique Projects” (TAGUP). TAGUP was set up under the chairmanship of Shri Nandan Nilekani for taking up the technological and system related issues in respect of five projects including GST. It was the report of TAGUP submitted in January, 2011 which suggested that the task of handling the IT related issues in respect of these five projects should be handed over to a class of institutions called “National Information Utilities” (NIU). It was also suggested that the NIU will be the reporting authority to government and it will further contract to vendors in market for specialized IT related services.
Later on, in July 2010, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, with the assent of the EC set up an Empowered Group on IT Infrastructure for GST (EG-IT) which was also headed by Shri Nandan Nilekani. It was a dedicated group which was entrusted the job to look into technological needs for implementing GST. It is worth mentioning here that TAGUP was responsible for making recommendations in respect of five projects already identified at the time of announcing budget, 2010-11 while EG-IT was responsible to work upon GST network only.
Based on the reports of these two groups, it was decided that:
- NIU for GSTN should be incorporated as a non-government, not for profit (section 25), Private Limited Company registered under the Companies Act, 1956.
- Government’s share in equity should be 49%; being 24.5% of Centre and 24.5% of State.
- Total private ownership should be 51%.
- No single private entity should hold more than 10% of equity.
Thus, basically, the GSTN is to be in the hands of the private sector with 51% of shares.
Objectives of GSTN
GSTN has been set-up with the following objectives to act as a pass through interface for dealers.
- Integration of the common GST Portal with the existing tax administration systems of the Central/State governments and other stakeholders.
- Provide common PAN based registration, enable returns filing and payment processing for all states on a shared platform.
- Facilitation, implementation and set standards for providing services to the taxpayer through common GST portal State Governments and other stakeholders;
- Build efficient and convenient interfaces between with tax payers to increase tax compliance;
- Carry out research, study best practices and provide training to the stakeholders
- he select committee of Parliament [RajyaSabha] has suggested “The GSTN is the comprehensive back end infrastructure network for the management of tax data and reporting of the GST. The Committee noted that the
- is dominated by private banks, and this is not desirable. It recommended that the Non-Government Institutional shareholding be limited to public sector banks and financial institutions.”
- The objections raised by the Committee are quite obvious and they simply cannot be ignored in the light of the fact that GSTN would be a database of almost every significant transaction being carried out in the economy. GSTN’s work is of strategic importance to the country and the firm would be a repository of a lot of sensitive data on business entities across the country.
Everything relating to GSTN was not so agitating until it was revealed that 51% of the shareholding of GSTN would lie in the hands of private sector. The privatization of GSTN is more threatening as GSTN would be a storehouse of a large amount of critical information. Thus, a majority private shareholding of such company means the critical information of about 6 million taxpayers is in the hands of private players. GSTN has been incorporated as a not-for- profit Section 25 Company. It is a well-known fact that private sector works only for profit. It is quite unusual for a private sector entity to invest for public welfare. This very fact induces a serious question as to why is private sector investing in a not-for-profit Company? Certainly, some kinds of incentives or interests must be associated with the investment. And when it is clearly evident that no monetary benefit is going to emerge out of it, it would not be wrong to assume the presence of some bigger non-monetary incentives. Or rather, it can be said that the availability of such critical data relating to the taxpayers itself is the biggest advantage associated with it. This threat alone is the major cause of concern for people arguing against the privatization of GSTN. Going by the above arguments, it can be safely opined that such critical information relating to taxpayers must not be given in the hands of such private entities.
The taxation system of any country is always considered to be the safest when it is under control of the state. Handing over the control of such sensitive data in the hands of the private sector is itself the biggest threat to the economy. How shall the government ensure the economic security of nation if such data is misused by the private entities to get benefit out of it?
At this stage, it must be noted that concerns had been raised even by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) regarding ownership and security of such sensitive and confidential data in the dominion of private sector owned GSTN but it was later decided not to question the decision of the empowered committee. This concern was not considered before proceeding with the registration of GSTN, ignoring the fact that CBEC is the most important stakeholder in this transitive tax revolution. What induces more questions is that GSTN, being a private company, shall be out of the ambit of the office of The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). Considering the above arguments, it would not be wrong to question the security and confidentiality of the critical taxpayers’ database.
…mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest as well as sacrificing interests of the State for the benefit of a few.
What could be the possible reasons behind private equity in GSTN? Is it indicating the government’s inability to efficiently manage the biggest tax revolution of the nation? Is the government trying to shed off its responsibilities? Why does the government want to keep GSTN out of the ambit of CAG?
The current proposed structure of GSTN is based upon the recommendations of TAGUP and EG-IT which had given their reports after a number of rounds of discussions.
The Empowered Committee (EC) has suggested that concerns regarding the data security should be addressed by incorporating related provisions in the Articles of Association of the company entrusted with GSTN. EC has also clarified that the Chairman of GSTN would be appointed by the Government. Also, as stated earlier, no single private entity will own more than 10% of equity while Centre and State will own 24.5% equity each. Thus, ultimate control will vest with government anyways. Further, a monitoring committee headed by Revenue Secretary was also proposed to be constituted to review the working of GSTN.
The EC also stated that the GSTN will be bound to follow the internationally accepted security and safety measures of protecting the data leakage. Also, it was proposed to appoint a Chief Information Security officer on deputation by Government to look into the matters related to information security. EC also clarified that the audits of GSTN would be conducted by independent auditors, including the professional personnel designated for carrying out technology reviews and giving suggestions thereupon.
The above stated justifications were given by EC in respect of information protection mechanism while finalizing the model of GSTN. However, these are the least discussed in the relevant fora.
From that point of view the concerns of Dr Swamy seem justified.
BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Thursday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to bring full Government control in the company called GSTN, formed by UPA Government with 51 percentage private participation to manage the administration of Goods and Services Tax (GST). In a letter to Modi, the BJP leader said it was not advisable to bring private firms in the administration of tax-related matters.
Goods and Services Tax Network (GSTN) was formed as a Section 25 company in March 2013 with Centre and States having 49 per cent. Rest 51 per cent of shares were controlled by private banks and National Stock Exchanges’ subsidiary company. Ten percent of shares each were held by HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, HDFC Ltd and NSE Strategic Investment Corporation. Eleven percent shares are held by LIC Housing Finance Limited, where Bank of Muscat and Abu Dhabi Investment Corporation also have shares, said Swamy.
“Being a Section 25 company, GSTN is a not-for-profit organisation. Then why private profit making entities have any stake, and that too majority stake in it? What is in it for them? Implementing GST scheme requires Constitutional Amendments and then only the GST administration and tax Management Company would be by GSTN. All the data management for computation of tax share, will be by GSTN,” said Swamy arguing that the programming work and electronic management should be handled by Government itself.
“Tax administration is a matter that deals with sensitive private information. Being such a large shareholder, this automatically means that HDFC and ICICI will be the bankers of public money collected through taxes,” he said, citing a recent transfer of Rs.4,000 crores ($600 million) by GSTN to develop software.
– The Pioneer
- t might be worthwhile to put together a policy/ guideline paper on appropriate vs inappropriate engagement with government projects or initiatives including the rules for conflict of interest. Right now, very few seem to know where the actual lines are. So it ends up being a free for all.
- If I recall correctly Sam Pitroda during his tenure at CDOT/ Telecom etc. staffed hordes of companies with relatives and then collected government contracts. Similar is the case with a large number of World Bank assigned projects with the Finance Ministry—which are contracted to small companies floated by parties having insider knowledge. But the average person has no idea where the lines were crossed and where they weren’t. Short of a getting a law degree oneself, I can’t even see how the average person is supposed to know where the lines are.
- I think it would be a huge social service to tell the nation a-priori what the lines are as opposed to retrospectively establishing them by precedent or worse a letter of indulgence from a higher power.
- It is unfortunate that no discussion is taking place about this GSTN and it would be most appropriate if the Finance Ministry comes out with clarifications and also make GSTN a government company which can be audited by the CAG.
- This sums up mechanisms to avoid conflicts of interest as well as sacrificing interests of the State for the benefit of a few.
- 1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 66.83 Rupees.
- 2. Text in
- points to additional data on the topic.
In what could be a mega scandal, the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG) has unearthed under-invoicing of revenue to the tune of over Rs45,000 crore by six telecom companies from 2006 to 2010. The CAG submitted a related report to the President’s Office and the Ministry of Finance in mid-February. The report, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament during the Budget Session, says that due to this massive under-invoicing, the exchequer lost more than Rs12,000 crore in taxes, that does not include penalty for tax evasion.
Given the go-ahead by the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court, the CAG audited the revenue and expenditure receipts of Airtel, Vodafone, Reliance Communications, Idea, Tata and Aircel.
The auditors decided to undertake this exercise after they came across several cases of discrepancies in revenue calculations of the telecom companies in 2010 when the CAG was preparing the 2G scam report. Alerted by the auditors, then CAG Vinod Rai ordered auditing of the revenue and expenditure of the six telecom companies.
After they challenged the decision in court, in 2011 Delhi HC asked the six telecom companies to share their accounts with the CAG and passed an order ratifying the CAG’s decision in January 2014. The SC in April 17, 2014, upheld the Delhi HC’s judgment on CAG’s power to audit any entity related to the revenue and expenditure of the Government.
During the audit, which officially started during August 2014, the CAG had called for the records and inspected the offices of all telecom companies.
“We were happy to note that there were several whistleblowers forthcoming to reveal the methods of under-invoicing by the telecom companies. Some companies were maintaining actual and manipulated accounting books and these whistleblowers helped us track down the original revenue earned,” said a senior auditor of the team engaged in the audit of the telecom companies.
According to the auditors, each of the six firms under-invoiced the revenue between Rs6,000 crore and Rs18,000 crore.
“What we noted is the difference in auditing in Government and private sectors. In the Government sector, not many people will come forward to help us, whereas in the private sector several people are forthcoming to expose the frauds to CAG,” he added.
During the 2G scam audit, the CAG found discrepancies in the customer base of the telecom companies and revenue and tax figures. The telecom companies fielded a battery of top lawyers to oppose the CAG in the High Court and the Supreme Court.
The estimated tax evasion figure of over Rs12,000 crore is based on the tax structure and telecom levy norms between 2006 and 2010.
The loss figure does not include the penalty for under-invoicing of revenue.
It is expected that if the Government start acting on the CAG report, the telecom companies might have to pay up to Rs30,000 crore to the exchequer by way of tax and penalty.
Shah Bano to Shayara Bano: Supreme Court issues notice in Triple Talaq, Polygamychallenge [Read petition]
After inviting a lot of attention, both negative and positive, for its remarks in the Sabarimala temple entry case, the Supreme Court has today fired a fresh salvo.
A Division Bench of Justices Anil R Dave and AK Goel issued notice in a petition filed by one Shayara Bano (Petitioner) from Uttarakhand. Bano’s petition challenges the Constitutionality of Muslim practices of polygamy, triple talaq(talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala.
Senior Advocate Amit Singh Chadha appeared for the petitioner.
Bano’s petition states that she was subject to cruelty, and dowry demands, from her husband and his family. Bano also claims that she was given drugs that “that caused her memory to fade, kept her unconscious”. Eventually, these drugs made her “critically ill” at which point her husband divorced her by triple talaq.
Besides challenging the divorce deed, the petitioner has challenged the Constitutionality of Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate polygamy, triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala.
She has also challenged the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 in so far as it fails to provide Indian Muslim women with protection from bigamy.
Bano argues that such practices have reduced women to mere chattels, and such practices don’t have a place in a progressive society. She has also contended that such practices are propagated, supported and authorised by imams, maulavis etc. who grossly misuse their position, influence and power.
The petitioner has likened polygamy to Sati contending that it is a problem which poses serious health, economic, moral and emotional risks.
“Polygamy is another practice that has been recognised as an evil plague similar to sati and has also been banned by law in India for all but Muslim citizens….
A perusal of the decisions of this Hon’ble Court in Prakash v. Phulavati (supra), Javed and Others v. State of Haryana and Others, (2003) 8 SCC 369, and Smt. Sarla Mudgal, President, Kalyani and Others v. Union of India and Others, (1995) 3 SCC 635 illustrates that the practice of polygamy has been recognised as injurious to public morals and it can be superseded by the State just as it can prohibit human sacrifice or the practice of sati.”
She has contended that in India, polygamy was traditionally followed by adherent of other religions as well but the same was prohibited “not only because laws dealing with marriage are not a part of religion, but also because the law has to change with time and ensure a life of dignity unmarred by discrimination on the basis of gender.”
“It has been noted in Smt. Sarla Mudgal (supra) that bigamous marriage has been made punishable amongst Christians by the Christian Marriage Act, 1872 (No. XV of 1872), amongst Parsis by the Parsi Marriage and Divorce Act, 1936 (No. III of 1936), and amongst Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains by the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 (No. XXV of 1955). However, the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 does not secure for Indian Muslim women the protection from bigamy which has been statutorily secured for Indian women belonging to all other religion…”
Bano has contended that “a ban on polygamy has long been the need of the hour in the interest of public order and health.”
On triple talaq (talaq-e-bidat) and nikah halala
Talaq-e –bidat includes a Muslim man divorcing his wife by pronouncing more than one talaq in a single tuhr (the period between two menstruations), or in a tuhr after coitus, or pronouncing an irrevocable instantaneous divorce at one go (unilateral triple-talaq).
Bano says that the practice of talaq-e-bidat (unilateral triple-talaq) is neither harmonious with the modern principles of human rights and gender equality, nor an integral part of Islamic faith.
“..according to various noted scholars. Many Islamic nations, including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq, have banned or restricted such practice, while it continues to vex the Indian society in general and Indian Muslim women like the Petitioner in particular. It is submitted that the practice also wreaks havoc to the lives of many divorced women and their children, especially those belonging to the weaker economic sections of the society….
According to many scholars, talaq-e-bidat is not a form of divorce recognised in the Holy Quran as the Holy Book provides for reconsideration and reconciliation before recognising divorce as irrevocable. Noted Islamic scholars like Asghar Ali Engineer have opined that talaq-e-ehsan, in which a married Muslim couple is given three months to separate if they wish, and also offers an opportunity to reconcile their differences, is the only acceptable and valid form of talaq.”
Bano has submitted that the practice of talaq-e-bidat and divorce of a woman without proper attempt at reconciliation violates the basic right to live with dignity of every Muslim woman. She cites the fact that many Muslim women have been given talaq over Skype, Facebook and even text messages.
“Muslim women have their hands tied while the guillotine of divorce dangles, perpetually ready to drop at the whims of their husbands who enjoy undisputed power. Such discrimination and inequality hoarsely expressed in the form of unilateral triple-talaq is abominable when seen in light of the progressive times of the 21st century. Further, once a woman has been divorced, her husband is not permitted take her back as his wife even if he had pronounced talaq under influence of any intoxicant, unless the woman undergoes nikah halala which involves her marriage with another man who subsequently divorces her so that her previous husband can re-marry her.”
Article 25 not absolute
She has submitted that the freedom to practice and propagate religion guaranteed by Article 25 is not absolute but is subject to public order, morality and health.
“It is submitted that a harmonious reading of Part III of the Constitution clarifies that the freedom of conscience and free profession, practice and propagation of religion guaranteed by Article 25 is subject to the fundamental rights guaranteed by Articles 14, 15 and 21. In fact, Article 25 clearly recognises this interpretation by making the right guaranteed by it subject not only to other provisions of Part III of the Constitution but also to public order, morality and health…”
She has, therefore, contended that Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate talaq-e-bidat as a valid form of divorce and the practices of nikah halala and polygamy, is void and unconstitutional.
Legislature has failed, UCC an elusive Constitutional goal
The petitioner has not held back while taking a dig at the Legislature for failing to secure the rights of Muslim women.
“It is submitted that the Legislature has failed to ensure the dignity and equality of women in general and Muslim women in particular especially when it concerns matters of marriage, divorce and succession. Despite the observations of this Hon’ble Court for the past few decades, Uniform Civil Code remains an elusive Constitutional goal that the Courts have fairly refrained from enforcing through directions and the Legislature has dispassionately ignored except by way of paying some lip service…..”
She has, therefore, submitted that the issue of gender discrimination against Muslim women under Muslim personal laws, specifically the lack of safeguards against arbitrary divorce and second marriage by a Muslim husband during currency of first marriage notwithstanding the guarantees of the Constitution, needs to be examined by the Supreme Court.
The petitioner has, inter alia, sought the following reliefs:
declaring Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution in so far as it seeks to recognise and validate talaq-e-bidat (triple-talaq), polygamy and nikah halala;
declaring the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939 unconstitutional and violative of Articles 14, 15, 21 and 25 of the Constitution in so far as it fails to secure for Indian Muslim women the protection from bigamy which has been statutorily secured for Indian women belonging to other religions;
declare talaq-e-bidat (triple-talaq), polygamy and nikah halala as unconstitutional.
The Court issued notice to the Central government, Ministry of Minority Affairs and the petitioner’s husband and tagged the case along with the suo moto petition already being heard by the Court. The suo moto petition was registered by the Supreme Court last year after a Bench had taken cognizance of the discrimination faced by Muslim women in the personal sphere relating to marriage and divorce.
Read the petition. (Click here to download)
Origin of caste.
Castes rise and fall in social scale, and old castes die out and new ones are formed, but the four great classes (varna) are stable.
They are never more or never less than four of these varnas. And for over 2,000 years their order of precedence were not altered.
(Bhasham in p. 148) says as follows:
“Caste is defined as a system of groups within the class, which are normally endogamous, commmensal and caste exclusive.”
“We have no real evidence of its existence until comparatively late times.”
TRUTH OF TRUTH IS THAT CASTES DID NOT ORIGINATE FROM 4 VARNAS.
It is impossible to show its origin conclusively, and we can do little more than faintly trace its development, since early literature paid scanty attention to it; but it is practically certain that the caste DID NOT originate from the four classes.
The Brahman gotras which go back to Vedic times are not castes, since the gotras are exogamous, and members of the same gotras are to be found in many castes. (Bhasham p. 148)
Max Weber noted the European trade guilds had all the features of modern Hindu castes, including even untouchability.
Hence it is quite possible that many of the modern Indian castes were trade guilds during the mediaval period.
With passage of time the trade guilds adopted colors of caste.
Basham explains how caste didn’t exist in India before Muslim period (Medieval Age).
Bhasham also explains how it originated from tribes & guilds during Muslim period of Indian history.
In late medieval times the final caste division took place as exogamy couldn’t work.
Bhasham wrote in his celebrated work – “The wonder that was India” as follows:
“It was only in late medieval times that it was finally recognized that exogamy and sharing meals with members of other classes were quite impossible for respectable people. These customs and many others such as widow-remarriage, were classed as kalivarjya — customs once permissible, but to be avoided in this dark Kali Age, when men are no longer naturally righteous.” (p. 148).
“…In attempting to account for the remarkable proliferation of castes in 18th – and 19th – century India, authorities credulously accepted the traditional view that by a process of inter marriage and subdivision the 3000 or more castes of modern India had evolved from the four primitive classes, and the term ‘caste’ was applied indiscriminately to both varna or class and jati or caste proper. This is a false terminology; castes rise and fall in social scale, and old castes die out and new ones are formed, but the four great classes are stable. They are never more or less than four, and for over 2,000 years their order of precedence as not altered. … If caste is defined as a system of groups within the class, which are normally endogamous, commensal and caste exclusive, we have no real evidence of its existence until comparatively late times.”(p. 148).
“…It is impossible to show its origin conclusively, and we can do little more than faintly trace its development, since early literature paid scanty attention to it; but it is practically certain that the caste did not originate from the four classes. Admittedly it developed later than they, but this proves nothing. There were subdivisions in the four
classes at a very early date, but the Brahman gotras, which go back to Vedic times, are not castes, since the gotras are exogamous, and members of the same gotras are to be found in many castes.” (p. 148).
“…Many trades were organized in guilds, in which some authorities have seen the origin of the trade castes; but these trade groups cannot be counted as fully developed castes. A 5th century inscription from Mandsore shows us a guild of silk-weavers emigrating in a body from Lata (the region of the lower Narmada) to Mandsore, and taking up many other crafts and professions, from soldiering to astrology, but still maintaining its guild consciousness. We have no evidence that this group was endogamous or commensal, and it was certainly not craft-exclusive, but its strong corporate sense is that of a caste in the making.” (p. 149)
“…Indian society developed a very complex social structure, arising partly from tribal affiliations and partly from professional associations, which was continuously being elaborated by the introduction of new racial groups into the community, and by the development of new crafts. In the Middle Ages the system became more or less rigid, and the social group was now a caste in the modern sense. Prof J.J. Hutton has interpreted the caste system as an adaptation of one of the most primitive of the social relationships, whereby a small clan, living in a comparatively isolated village, would hold itself aloof from its neighbors by a complex system of taboos, and he has found embryonic caste features in the social structure of some of the wild tribes of present-day India. The caste system may well be the natural response of the many small and primitive peoples who were forced to come to terms with a more complex economic and social system. It did not develop out of the four Aryan varnas, and the two systems have never been thoroughly harmonized” (p. 149-150).
“Equalitarian religious reformers of the middle ages such as Basava, Ramanand, and Kabir tried to abolish caste among their followers; but their sects soon took characteristics of new castes.” (p. 151)
Romila Thapar had changed her racist theory narrating a false Aryan invasion theory. Listen to Premedra Prayadarshi’s monumental treatise.
Premendra Priyadarshi points out that Romila Thapar earlier subscribed to the racist theory of Indian castes, that the original Indians were subordinated by invading Aryans into lower castes and the Aryans placed themselves in the top castes, however, she changed her mind later and found that castes originated from guilds and tribes. (Thapar 2003: 422).
Romila Thapar earlier (1966) used caste to denote varna and sub-caste to denote jati. But in her latest book she uses the terms varna and jati in English also, and avoids the word caste at most of the places. Thapar wrote: “However, there have been other ways of looking at the origins and functioning of caste society. A concept used equally frequently for caste is jati. It is derived from a root meaning ‘birth‘, and the number of jatisare listed by name and are too numerous to be easily counted. The hierarchical ordering of jatis is neither consistent nor uniform, although hierarchy cannot be denied. The two concepts of jati and varna overlap in part but are also different…But it can also be argued that the two were distinct in origin and had different functions, and that the enveloping of jati by varna, as in the case of Hindu castes, was a historical process…The origin of varna is reasonably clear from the references in the Vedic corpus…The genesis of the jati may have been the clan, prior to its becoming a caste.” (p. 63)
“There are close parallels between the clan (tribe) as a form of social organization and the jati.” (p. 64, bracket added) (Thapar, Romila; The Penguin History of Early India from the Origins to AD 1300, Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2002 reprint 2003).
It is on record that many of the Brahmana castes and Rajput caste are products of mobility of clan and tribes (and later, of castes).
Thapar notes this phenomenon in the following words:
“The temple could also act as a conduit of social mobility. In coastal Andhra, a large herd of cows was donated to Draksharama temple. The herd was …cared for by the local Boya tribal community. In the course of time, and because they were looking after the temple property, these Boyas rose in status from from outcasts to shudras. As shudras they entered the lower echelons of administration and gradually some attained high office.” (p. 390).
“A number of new groups entered the established hierarchy of castes. Perhaps most visible were the new kshatriya castes. They were open to those who had acquired political authority and could claim the status through genealogy or an appropriate marriage alliance. Other than those claiming connection with existing kshatriya castes, they were grantees in category of samantas or chiefs that had been inducted into the caste society…By the end of this period, designations such as rauta, ranaka, thakkura and such like were available to those who had received grants of land and became grantees.” (Thapar, Ibid ., p. 462).
Thapar (2003:66) also holds identical views about origin of castes from guilds, tribes and religious sects:
“The conversion from tribe or clan to caste, or from jana to jati as it is sometimes called, was one of the basic mutations of Indian social history..” (p. 66)
“The conversion of clan to jati was not the only avenue to creating castes. Since caste identities were also determined by occupations, various professional associations, particularly urban artisans, gradually coalesced into jatis, beginning to observe jati rules by accepting a social hierarchy that defined marriage circles and inheritance laws, by adhering to common custom and by identifying with a common location.Yet another type of jati was the one that grew out of a religious sect that may have included various jatis to begin with, but started functioning so successfully as a unit that eventually it too became a caste. A striking example of this is the history of the Lingayat caste in the peninsula.” (p. 66)
Basham‘s finding that the Hindu caste system became fully developed only during the late Middle Ages, corroborates well with similar findings by other investigators. Raghuvanshi noted that the travellers of the early Medieval Period were silent on the complex caste structure of the society, but by the time of the later Mughals, the institution of caste had grown to maturity, and its ramifications into sub-castes were numerous. ( Raghuvanshi, V.P.S., Indian Society in the Eighteenth Century)
Romila Thapar’s Changed Views on the Origins of Caste:
Romila Thapar earlier subscribed to the racist theory of Indian castes, that the original Indians were subordinated by invading Aryans into lower castes and the Aryans placed themselves in the top castes. However, Thapar changed her mind and now finds that castes originated from guilds and tribes (Thapar 2003: 422). Historians took longer to understand origin of caste because, as Srinivas had rightly pointed out, many of the Indians can actually never understand the difference between varna and caste.
Romila Thapar earlier (1966) used caste to denote varna and sub-caste to denote jati. But in her latest book (2002, reprint 2003) she uses the terms varna and jati in English also, and avoids the word caste at most of the places. Prof Basham also had strongly discouraged the use of word ‘caste’ to mean ― varna, and Srinivas had also held similar views.
“One of the current debates relating to the beginning of Indian history involves both archeology and linguistics, and attempts to differentiate between indigenous and alien peoples. … To categorize some people as indigenous and others as alien, to argueabout the first inhabitants of the subcontinent, and to try and sort out these categories for the remote past, is to attempt the impossible. (p.xxiv)
“It was not just the landscape that changed, but society also changed and often quite noticeably. But this was a proposition unacceptable to colonial perceptions that insisted on the unchanging character of Indian history and society. (p. xxiv)
“That the study of institutions did not receive much emphasis was in part due to the belief that they did not undergo much change: an idea derived from the conviction that Indian culture had been static, largely owing to the gloomy, fatalistic attitude to life. (p. xxv)
Again Thapar says:
“The formation of caste is now being explored as a way of understanding how Indian society functioned. Various possibilities include the emergence of castes from clans of forest dwellers, professional groups or religious sects. Caste is therefore seen as a less rigid and frozen system than it was previously thought to be, but at the same time this raises a new set of interesting questions for social historians. (p. xxvii)
“However, there have been other ways of looking at the origins and functioning of caste society. A concept used equally frequently for caste is jati. It is derived from a root meaning ‘birth’, and the number of jatis are listed by name and are too numerousto be easily counted. The hierarchical ordering of jatis is neither consistent nor uniform, although hierarchy cannot be denied. The two concepts of jati and varna overlap in part but are also different…But it can also be argued that the two were distinct in origin and had different functions, and that the enveloping of jati by varna,as in the case of Hindu castes, was a historical process…The origin of varna is reasonably clear from the references in the Vedic corpus…The genesis of the jati may have been the clan, prior to its becoming a caste. (p.63).
“There are close parallels between the clan (tribe) as a form of social organization and the jati. (p. 64) Thus we have noted views of Hutton, Basham and Thapar that the caste system did not originate from the ancient Hindu varna system. It is on record that many of the brahmana castes and Rajput caste are products of mobility of clan and tribes (and later, of castes).
Thapar notes this phenomenon in the following words:
The temple could also act as a conduit of social mobility. In coastal Andhra, a largeherd of cows was donated to Draksharama temple. The herd was …cared for by the local Boya tribal community. In the course of time, and because they were looking after the temple property, these Boyas rose in status from from outcasts to shudras. As shudras they entered the lower echelons of administration and gradually some attained high office. (p. 390).
A number of new groups entered the established hierarchy of castes. Perhaps most visible were the new kshatriya castes. They were open to those who had acquired political authority and could claim the status through geneology or an appropriate marriage alliance. Other than those claiming connection with existing kshatriya castes, they were grantees in category of samantas or chiefs that had been inducted into the caste society…By the end of this period, designations such as rauta, ranaka, thakkura and such like were available to those who had received grants of land and became grantees. (Thapar, Ibid ., p. 462).
In this way the tribe is a local group whereas caste is a social group.
The study of a Central Himalayan tribe Tharu reveals that though they have a tribal matrix and continue to practice certain distinctive tribal customs, richer elite among them have a tendency to claim kshatriya-hood and may possibly merge into Rajputs. One such example is the landed peasantry Tharus of Champaran district of Bihar in India.
A largesection of Tharu tribe has named itself Rana Tharu. Rana is the feudal aristocratic Rajput caste of Nepal and also in Rajasthan state of India. Thus affluent among the Tharus have been placed at a higher level in the caste hierarchy. Khasa is another Himalayan tribe, which has been accepted as a Rajput (upper caste) in the Hindu caste society of Uttarakhanda state of India.
In fact conversion of tribals into Rajput was such a general feature that Sinha coined the concept of Rajput-Tribe Continuum. Thus Bhumij, Munda and Gond tribes of Central Inida were able to establish their kingdoms (Munda Raj in Chotanagpur; Bhumij state in Barabhumand Raj Gond state of Gondwana), which added to their claims of Kshatriya status, and often melting into the Rajput caste by specific groups of these tribes.
Other Authors on Conversion of Tribes into Castes are given below:
In this context, von Furer-Haimendorf examines the case of Gond tribe. He finds that this tribe cleared the forests, and settled on the land as farming tribe. Later others (non-Gonds)came into the area. Yet with passage of time, although the Gonds are tribes till date, yet arevery near to an upper caste in the spectrum. He notes: “Even the mainstream Hindu immigrant populations see Gonds as having attributes of purity. If a Hindu is asked how he evaluates the Gonds‘ status in varna system, he will say that Gonds … must therefore be considered as high castes.”
Many Gonds were indeed able to enter Hindu caste system as a Rajput (upper caste) clan. Max Weber too noted that when an Indian tribe loses its territorial significance it assumes.
William Crooke quotes from Risley that Rajput‘s development from original tribes can be with more or less confidence be assumed. He notes that often Bhil or Gond tribal man becomes leader of his sept and claims to be a Rajput sept. He is not at once admitted into the matrimonial fold of the Rajputs, but if he is rich enough and persistent in his claim, this boon is granted sooner or later. As a result of this constant conversion of tribes into Rajputs,Rajput became the single largest caste of India with widest territorial distribution. Trend to become Rajput was most marked during the Muslim period. It is because in any feudalarchy,it is the feudal caste which wields maximum power, respect and avenues. Purity of blood and supremacy of lineage are powerful ideologies during feudal period. Muslim period of India was the Golden Age of feudalism, and Dark Age for knowledge and capitalism.
William Crooke too noted this relationship between tribes and the Rajputs (an upper caste). “Dravidian Gond(tribe) were enrolled as Rajputs.” “Raja of Singrauli was a pure Kharwar (tribe), but became a banbansi Kshatriya during the life of the author.” “Col Sleeman gives the case of an Oudh Pasi who became a Rajput…”. “The names of many septs (of Rajputs), as Baghel, Ahban, Kalhans, and Nagbansi, suggest a totemistic origin, and Nagbansi suggests a totemistic origin which would bring them in line with the Chandrabanshi, who are promoted Dravidian Cheros and other similar septs of undoubtedly aboriginal race.
Kharwar is a tribe. Many Rajput (upper caste Hindu) dynasties have been said to belong to Kharwar group. Apart from the ones mentioned by Crooke, there is documentary evidence of Kharwar Rajput in Mirzapur, which revolted in 1857.
More such relations between tribes and Rajputs have been noted by Sadasivan from records of older authors, “Dr Francis Buchanan upon evidence states that the Pratihara Rajputs of Sahabad are descendants of tribe of Bhars. ‘Chandels’ observes Vincent Smith ‘who appear to have their descent from the Gonds closely connected with another tribe the Bhars, first carved out a petty principality near Chhatrapur’. Sir Denzil Ibbetson is also almost certain that the so called Rajput families were aboriginal, and he instanced the Chandels. ‘Recent investigation has shown’ writes H. A. Rose (A Glossory of Tribes and Castes of the Punjab and the North-West Province) that the ‘Pratihara’ (Parihar) clan of the Rajputs was really a section of the Gujars and other fireborn Rajput clans, Solanki (Chalukyas), Punwars (Paramaras), Chauhans (Chahumanas or Chahuvamsha) must be assigned similar origin”.
Views of Srinivas on Origin of Castes from Tribes:
Srinivas gave a very well studied view of caste tribe relationship:
“The category of Shudra subsumes, in fact, the vast majority of non-Brahminical castes which have little in common. It may at one end include a rich, powerful and highly Sanskritized group while at the other end may be tribes whose assimilation to Hindu fold is only marginal. The Shudra-category spans such a wide structural and cultural gulf that its sociological utility is very limited.”
“It is well known that occasionally a shudra caste has, after the acquisition of economic and political power, Sanskritized its customs and ways, and has succeeded in laying claim to be kshatriyas. The classic example of the RajGonds, originally a tribe, but who successfully claimed to be kshatriyas after becoming rulers of a tract in Central India, shows up the deficiency of the varna-classification. The term kshatriya, for instance, does not refer to a closed ruling group which has always been there since the time of the Vedas. More often it refers to the position attained or claimed by a local group whose traditions and luck enabled it to seize politico-economic power.”(pp. 65-66). – Srinivas.
“But in Southern India the Lingayats claim equality with, if not superiorityto the Brahmin, and orthodox Lingayats do not eat food cooked or handled by the Brahmin. The Lingayats have priests of their own caste who also minister to several other non-Brahmin castes. Such a challenge to the ritual superiority of the Brahmin is not unknown though not frequent. The claim of a particular caste to be Brahmin is, however, more often challenged. Food cooked or handled by Marka Brahmins of Mysore, for instance, is not eaten by most Hindus, not excluding Harijans.” (Ibid. p. 66) – Srinivas
“It is necessary to stress here that innumerable small castes in a region do not occupy clear and permanent positions in the system. Nebulousness as to position is of the essence of the system in operation as distinct from the system in conception. The varna-model has been the cause of misinterpretation of the realities of the caste system. A point that has emerged from recent field-research is that the position of a caste in the hierarchy may vary from village to village. It is not only that the hierarchy is nebulous here and there, and the castes are mobile over a period of time, but the hierarchy is also to some extent local. The varna scheme offers a perfect contrast to this picture.”(Ibid,p. 67). – Srinivas
In some countries (like Arabic speaking and other Muslim countries) caste word is not used by English language authors and media and instead ‘tribe’ word isoften used. In these situations ‘tribe’ often means a caste and nothing else. Though caste exists as an entity in these Muslim nations too, yet its existence is denied by English media by resorting to use of the word ‘tribe’ instead of caste. This is done deliberately to reserve the use of the word caste “exclusively” for India.
1. In a caste system, phrases like ‘son of a Kayastha’ or ‘son of a Gujjar‘ etc are not used because son of a Kayastha is a Kayastha and son of a Gujjar is also a Gujjar.
2. Therefore calling Karna in Mahabharata as suta-putra or son of a Suta (stable keeper) cannot be called a caste oriented insult.
3. Arjuna refused to fight with Karna, even though he was kshatriya but because he was not a prince.
4. Dharma is that a prince should not fight a subject and the that the subject should obey the king/prince.
5. Besides suta is not a caste. Karna was indeed a kshathriya and not a suta (charioteer), even though he was son of a suta.
6. The matter is further proved when we find that Karna is appointed the king of Anga, and later the Commander in Chief of the Kaurava.
7. After years of age people embraced sannyasa as also many directly from Brahmacharya. Sannyasis have no varna.
8. At one time majority entering Sanyasa Ashrama lived outside varna system. Still they were part of Aashrama Dharma.
9. This is in contrast with the caste system in which caste is thrust on to the individual at birth and it does not leave him till death.
10. Secular idea was Hindus were within the grips of caste system, which Buddha disliked, and started a new religion to end caste discrimination.
11. Buddha, they allege, criticized Brahmanas and it was because of this that most of the masses consisting of lower castes converted to Buddhism.
12. Such claims of Buddha vs Brahmins have no basis, and they are products of fertile brains.
13. Buddha never claimed departure from the Sanatana Dharma (Esa Dhammo Sanatano – Thus is the Sanatana Dharma – Dhammapada).
14. At the time of Buddha, brahmanas were a class, not by birth, but by education and profession. Buddha indeed spoke very highly of the brahmanas.
15. Buddha described the characters of an ideal brahmana which is in consonance with the charecters of brahmanas described by Hindu scriptures.
16. Of all the classes of people, Buddha selected the Brahmana alone to declare that “no one should ever hurt a Brahmin”.
17. Buddha rated service to Brahmana at par with serving the parents. (atho brahmannata sukha; Dhammapada, ).
18. Some translations give meaning of this verse (atho brahmannata sukha; Dhammapada, ) as―it is a blessing to be a brhamana.
19. The hereditary caste system did not exist at the time of Buddha, otherwise he must have condemned it.
20. Later Buddhists too supported the varna system, yet they claimed that Kshatriya was highest varna & Brahmana was below that (Basham:).
21. In Jataka Kathas, written by Buddhist monks, Buddha (Bodhisattva) was almost always born in either a brahmana family or a kshatriya family.
22. Let me bring out the absence of Caste in Post-Vedic Ancient Period.
23. Tenth century Jain poet and historian Pushpadant in his Mahapurana says that there were four varnas during his times (10th century AD),1/2
24. which were not based on birth, but on the duty one performed in his life. 2/2
25. Basham noted that Huen Tsang in the 7th century was well aware of the four varnas, and also mentioned many mixed varnas by marriage.
26. It however did not affect the varna system for none inherited a varna by birth. Neither was there a compusion to die in a varna.
27. A person taken on a varna on his mental inclination but wud’nt change it for the fun of it. He can abandon it for non-varna by assuming sanyasa.
28. Al-Biruni did not get three or four thousand castes in India in c. A.D., but found only four varnas.
29. VarNa classification did not apply to children, widows & sanyasis. So majority were outside varNa dharma in our system.
30. Impact of one’s varNa on society happens only when the person has a role to play such as profession or productive family role.
31. Children, students, widows, retirees, ascetics do not have productive role in society so varNa dharma cannot apply to them. They form majority.
32. Varna dharma apply only to householder who is called Grihastha. So focus of varna dharma is Grihasthasrama dharma.
33. Though kanchi Sankaracharya, Baba ramdev & Swami Vivekananda have no varNa. casteists brand them as Brahmin, Yadhav & Kayastha respectively.
34. Al Bruni said a years ago that he found no evidence of endogamy, the key component of caste.
35. Arthasasthra clearly states even a Shudhra cannot b made a slave. Human chattel was a key component of western caste system.
36. Megasthanes declared there were no slaves in India.
37. Slave trade started only in the th century after Turko-Afghan occupation of India.
38. Slave markets in Delhi appeared from the accounts of Barnani which is as recent occurance by alien occupiers & not indigenous.
39. Absence of slaves, rudimentary market economy & freedom of movement of people in India indicate far advanced economic system vs feudal west.
40. Thus contrary to allegation and propaganda Medieval Hindustan was egalitarian.
41. All classes had lived respecting each other. If any author had made disparaging remarks, it wont indicate social trend but of individual.
42. Those remarks of ill-will between different classes may as well be later day insertions of wicked persons.
43. In fact slave trade started in India only after Turko-Afghan occupation of India.
44. And for the first time in 13th century, slave markets at Delhi appears from the accounts of Barani.
45. It may be understood that original Indian population must have consisted of innumerable tribes based on territoriality.
46. As civilization evolved, tribes were drawn into larger regional civilizations (like Mehrgarh or Harappa).
47. It was only after a level of civilization had been achieved, that people were considered as classes. Vedas mention these classes.
48. The oldest verses of Rig-Veda mention only two classes, brahmana and rajanya (or kshatriya).
49. The other two (vaishya and shudra) appear only in the last mandal, ie Mandala 10.
50. This indicates that these latter classes were products of increasing civilizational complexity in production, industry and trade.
51. If we accept Vedic timeline of Kazanas, the shudra varna (not caste) became prominent during Indus Civilization according to Premendra Priyadharshi.
52. Appearance of Vaishya & Sudhra correspond to the period of Atharvana Veda (Premendra Priyadharshi)
53. Although varnas were only few, Vedas always mentioned a large number of vedic tribes(called jana) like Kuru, Puru, Bharata, Panchala etc.
54. These tribes had local territories of origin. Each tribe later developed its brahmana, khshatriya & other classes depending on profession.
55. Vedic values laid stress on forgetting inter-tribal (or inter-jana) rivalry, and encouraged gotra-exogamy.
56. Gotra-exogamy led to establishing inter-jana relationships, and a stronger feeling of Indian identity.
57. Gotra-exogamy lead to weakening of jana identity or tribal identity, until advent of Islam.
58. Islam terminated the Vedic customs in India and the beginning of endogamy (marriage within group) the main feature of caste.