The end of an era
Sometimes, pictures are more evocative than words. Photos of young boys playing cricket on rain-swept tarmacs where hundreds of trucks once waited to pay octroi for entry into Mumbai are a testimony to how the introduction of the goods and services tax (GST) has irrevocably changed the way goods move across India. The infamous logjams at the five main entry points into the city are now a thing of the past.
The octroi posts were a metaphor for all that was wrong with the old system. There was the medieval idea that you had to pay a tax before your products could enter a city. There were costs to supply chains as goods moved through multiple choke points across a vast country. There was the rampant corruption as octroi collectors could keep trucks waiting for days if their demands were not met. There was the ecosystem of touts to ease matters.
The claims that GST will integrate a fragmented market and that it will reduce corruption is best tested in places like the octroi centres that have now been shut down.