File photo of PM Narendra Modi | Praveen Jain/ThePrint
File photo of PM Narendra Modi | Praveen Jain/ThePrint
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Umang Agarwal runs a small factory in Kanpur that makes iron sheets out of coils. He also runs the Facilitation for Industries & Traders Association (FITA) which has 1,800 companies as its members from across Uttar Pradesh. The association urges its members to deal with the government without paying any bribe. In this interview, Agarwal explains how micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) have fared in the last five years.

There are two kinds of businesses, traditional business and the new ones with global methods. The Narendra Modi government’s policies over the last five years have helped big business among the traditionalists boom and evolve. The new global businesses are thriving. But the traditional small businessman, and that’s 85 per cent of the business community, has suffered. Our orders are down by 50 per cent.

The Modi government has approached small business with the pre-determined mindset that we are not honest. Yes, India has had a strong parallel economy which, by the way, helped India absorb many global economic shocks. Modi’s policies to finish black money have caused more harm than good. The result is that today, there is no money in the market — in black or in white.

Modi forced rapid change on us without preparing us for it. Last few years, the next generation of the small industrialist is leaving business for jobs. And the children of those in jobs are creating start-ups, selling things online sometimes without physically moving them from godown to market.

Modi’s war on the parallel and informal economy has been accompanied with a credit slowdown. Banks have stopped sanctioning loans, except to the non-deserving who want thousands of crores. The claim that we can now get a loan in 59 minutes is a joke. Banks can’t even look up the credit score of an applicant in 59 minutes. They take that long to pass the cheque from one counter to another. What has improved is the unease of doing business, while the government claims otherwise.

Small guys for nation building

The Modi government has had good intentions but the bad implementation is destroying small business. A negativity has set into the business environment for everyone except the 15 per cent top guys. They have taken away the business we have lost.

Nation-building needs to take care of the small guys too. What we need right now is a massive rescue operation but there is none in sight.

The nail in the coffin was the goods and services tax (GST). Overnight the small players lost business. The big ones were better placed to adapt to GST, the small ones took time. Clients instantly rushed to the big players for GST benefits and when small business complained, we were called thieves. GST was implemented when the country was not ready for it. GST officers themselves are not trained for it, the ones nearing retirement refuse to learn. We have to go and teach them.

How is a small businessman supposed to keep track of countless modifications to GST? Do I run around to retain clients or to make sure the CA is not making any mistakes? We have to run around for refunds, shrinking our working capital and again giving the big players an advantage.

Corruption has increased

The GST has actually increased corruption. When the GST rate is as high as 18 per cent or 28 per cent, everyone has the incentive for corruption. If you can get away with a bribe that effectively costs you 7-8 per cent, why would you pay 28 per cent?

Modi should have read Kautilya, who said that tax should be so reasonable that tax evasion was not possible. I have been to many countries where GST has been implemented efficiently with a low rate. That is when the GST would work, with a single low rate.

What the Indian economy is facing today is not a slowdown but a recession. For 85 per cent of the business community, the revenues are shrinking. That’s what a recession does.

The fact that economic policy has been designed to hurt small business and benefit big players is proof that crony capitalism is alive and kicking.

Republic of fear

And I say all this as someone who has never voted for any party other than the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). But I don’t see how Modi is helping India progress. Today there’s an environment of fear in the country. No front is working independently: Not the judiciary, not the media. We are only being shown the picture the government wants us to see.

Anyone who raises his voice is called a traitor. We had one independent outlet, social media, but now that has also been manipulated.

People don’t speak up out of fear, doesn’t mean they are happy. I am an odd one out. I speak my mind. I’m an RTI activist, I follow the law, I don’t break rules, don’t evade tax or pay bribes. Despite that if the government comes after me for expressing my views, I will think ‘Bhole Nath’ (Lord Shiva) is unhappy with me. I’m only his follower.


I preferred the BJP of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who promoted faith, love and confidence. Vajpayee did not promote fear.

The Congress is the most corrupt party. Akhilesh Yadav is the right man in the wrong party. The second half of his term, he genuinely tried to help business grow. I could tell by reading the government orders. When I read the Yogi Adityanath government’s orders regarding business and industry, I feel like I’m reading Chacha Chaudhary comics.

I didn’t have any choice this election. I voted NOTA.

Also readWhy this Modi voter chose NOTA this election


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19 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Bakwas. They can’t run business without paying taxes And hide money. They are against Modi because their hawala business does not run easily and if everything becomes cashless they can’t run their corrupt business. That’s the only fear.

  2. For those defending Modi’s work, he had all the prerequisites, an unshakeable mandate to bring in reforms, technological infrastructure to usher in GST, yet he bombed the economy, weakened institutions, even an economy on autopilot would have fared without Modi as PM. As for this interviewee, BJP will dig your grave but you will scream ‘Congress is corrupt’ and jump into it.

  3. The fear that one feels when expressing views on this Govts policies or any comments related to other religion,you get abusive response or threatening calls even from Twitter handlers of Modiji who were invited for TEA WITH PM MODI. I CLOSE MY VIEWS ELSE I GET THREATENED. HOPE I GET A SLEEP TONIGHT.

  4. I too felt suffering due to poor implementation of GST & note Bandi but when I came to know that the collection of direct & indirect taxes has been increased so much,now I am able to see the bright future of this country.. provided MODI government continues for next term otherwise the Congress will put all the collected Texas in NYAY kind of Yojana. I may have many complaints to the government but thinking overall future prospects of our nation I can say that Mr Umang Agarwal opinion is biased and have some personal malafide intention behind it. ANYONE CAN SEE THAT THERE IS NO REAL FEAR BUT AN ARTIFICIAL ONE. EVERYONE LOUDLY MAKING EVERY FALSE STATEMENTS (WHAT THEY WANT) AGAINST MODI BUT STILL CLAIM THERE IS A FEAR -I AM UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND HOW ONE CAN MAKE ALL FALSE ALLEGATION TO THE GOVERNMENT WITH SO MUCH OF FEAR ?

  5. For small businesses things are really bad post demo and GST. Govt has messed it up. GST rates need to be 12%for most products except sinful products. But at the same time corruption has decreased drastically, in IT Dept, GST Dept which was earlier sales tax Dept, Only thing needed is for govt to put most products which are in 18% rate bracket to 12% one and the small businesses would be back with a bang.

  6. I never understood this angst against gst rate…..if we compare any products tax rates in pre gst era n post gst tell me a single good. Whoes tax has increased in fact it has came down from 30percent to 18percent in most of the cases. I think he is questioning 59min loan process without even applying for it. Even my family and frnds are in business and most of them found this process as most easiest way to get loans

  7. I won’t question Mr Agarwal’s motives or the veracity of what he is saying. But, broadly it seems he lacks wisdom to judge long term gains against some short term pains. And there are fallacies. For example, the ‘high GST rate’ of 18 pc, is much less than the sum of all the pre-GST taxes. As for corruption, well, it HAS gone at the top, it will take time to percolate to the bottom. 70 years of bribe taking culture cannot vanish in 5 yes. Please give Modi time. As for lack of funds, the blame is clearly on UPA, which caused indiscriminate lending, leading to NPA issues and consequently, credit crunch. Here again, only some time is needed. My suggestion to Mr Agarwal: please wait for 2-3 years more, you’ll be prospering more than ever before.
    But the question to The Print is, what kind of journalism is it to get hold of one person’s opinion and running it as a story. I’m a journalist too. If you get hold of an Agarwal who has this view, I can also get hold of a Gupta or a Sharma who’ll say how great things are under Modi. I indeed know many small businessmen who thank the govt for GST. Very poor journalism, Shekhar.

  8. The Businessman does acknowledge that they have grown fat all these decades by not paying taxes, bribing their way through and Modi has put a brake on it. If his son is merely acting like a trader, then is it Modi’s fault- that’s were all these industrialist have been putting their money anyway – buy cheap goods from China and sell in India.

    These guys have become so used to raking in money by bribing and getting their way through contacts in high places that doing a business legally, is proving difficult.

    • this is how the whole country was working. He is only saying – which bhakts may not understand – that change was forced too suddenly, and GST rates are impossibly high, and highly complicated, due to which he has lost business to the Adanis and the Ambanis who are favored by Modi.

  9. From Social Media messages being forwarded a clear atmosphere of Fear is being generated! Hopefully 24 May will be Golden day for India.

  10. Not one of my businessmen friends has told me that corruption has vanished, or even come down substantially. What may have happened is that when business is down, the flow of rents has decreased. Most of all in real estate, where many fewer new launches of projects are taking place. Taken as a group, businesspersons, barring some whose political / ideological convictions override all else, are the last set of people who would look forward to a second term. Forget the undergraduate remark about Suit boot ki sarkar. Indians can never be smiling if traders / industrialists are scowling.

  11. Well said and Agreed with Author 100 percent. Disregard middle class employees here that live off caramel custard and speak from Armchairs.

  12. Shri Vij, I strongly suspect that a lot of your own creative biased exaggerations have gone into writing this article, but I am not surprised! You are what you are. Now that that is settled, please do explain what is this parallel economy which Modi has been trying to throttle? Is this (parallel economy) something which runs in another gallaxy or are you in fact with your usual creative suppression of fact actually referring to the Black Economy? You know the one where people don’t pay any taxes, not by creating accounting but by cold blooded tax evasion?

    In Shri Agarwal’s case, he probably bought raw material in black, processed it with stolen electricity , with labour employed off the record, with exploitative wages with no benefits in Dickinsion conditions, no respect for the environment and then sold his goods without paying any sales, excise or any other tax. Of course he probably didn’t pay any income tax too on his earnings. This Shri Vij is what you so pleasantly refer to as the parallel economy and if this illicit economy eventually dies then Bharat will definitely benefit. Yes Shri Agarwal and his ilk will suffer but in this land of karma you have to pay for your sins.


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