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    Devangshu Datta: Dog fights and pet-foods

    <TABLE class=TableClas cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=byline>VIEWPOINT</TD></TR><TR><TD height=12></TD></TR><TR><TD class=author>Devangshu Datta / New Delhi March 03, 2007</TD></TR><TR><TD height=4></TD></TR><TR><TD style="BACKGROUND-IMAGE: url(/images/common/gn_005.gif); BACKGROUND-REPEAT: repeat-x"></TD></TR><TR><TD height=9></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE><TABLE class=TableClas cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD>For years, babudom has been plagued by bitter internecine battles. There are inter-service lobbies (IAS, IFS, IPS, IRS, etc) and intra-service lobbies (Customs versus Excise in the IRS and the IPS officers seconded to RAW versus IPS officers not seconded, etc). </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>Caste and linguistic lobbies cut across services. Tactical alliances meld and dissolve at need. The fluidity is somewhat akin to Edwardian Europe with its bewildering maze of interlinked and conflicting dual and triple alliances. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>In Europe, millions died after a Serbian shot an Austrian in Bosnia and Germany ended up at war with Britain as a result. In India, the lobbies aren’t quite that damaging. But by working at cross-purposes, they do create perverse outcomes. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>On the rare occasions when babus subsume their internal differences and work together with a common purpose, the results are impressive. We saw an example of this in the recent Budget. But first, the backdrop. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>Over 2003-04, the world was hit by two epidemics. SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is a mildly tautological name of a respiratory disease that migrated from pigs to humans. And bird flu is caused by a virus that migrated from avians. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>The government acted with commendable speed to reduce the chances of the aam admi growing feathers and saying "Oink, Oink". It responded with a ban on all imports of meat and meat-based products. This included packaged pet-food for cats and dogs. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>The ban meant some hardship for pet-owners in the absence of an indigenous pet-food industry. Anybody who has handled the logistics of provisioning large numbers of dogs and cats in hot weather knows about the conveniences of dry pelleted food. It’s easier to store in bulk, takes much longer to spoil, and the post-prandial mess is less. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>Once you factor in the spoilage, it’s cheaper than tripe and offal. At need, it is also a nutritious substitute for snacks such as Lays and Haldiram, provided your guests aren’t squeamish (or aware of what they’re eating). </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>For almost two years, pet-food remained on the banned import list. It was when the ban was eased that internal divisions became apparent. There are two dog-lobbies in babudom. The better-known and larger consists of the multitudes who imitate dogs and wag their tails ingratiatingly whenever the netas whistle. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>The other lobby is that of the babus who own and love dogs. The dog-owners had been at perpetual loggerheads with the smaller and less influential cat-lobby, consisting of babus who love cats. (The minuscule cat-lobby, of babus who hiss and spit at netas, has been sadly diminished by the retirement of leading lights like T N Seshan and Harsh Mander.) </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>The dog-lobby put it over the cat-lobby. The ban on dog-food was lifted months earlier than the ban on cat-food. This made no sense since the key ingredients are precisely the same. It is a typical example of the perverse outcomes of bureaucratic judo. An examination of the file notings leading to the partial rescinding of the pet-food ban in 2005 will surely be illuminating. But that’s why the lobby of dog-imitators has worked hard to prevent file-notings getting included in the RTI Act. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>Well, the ban on cat-food was lifted after the cat-lobby made nice with the dog-lobby. The two then put together a tactical alliance that targeted the high duty impost on pet-food that affected both. Oddly, given the context, cat food and dog food are taxed at the same rates. As we saw, the Budget cut duties, thereby reducing the fiscal burden on pet-owners and animal shelters. </TD></TR><TR><TD height=5></TD></TR><TR><TD>Sources say the alliance has become permanent, leading to the creation of an amalgamated pet-owning babus’ lobby. Chuffed at the successful flexing of muscles, they are now exploring more policy options. Pets are well-known to be good for their owners’ health since keeping pets reduces stress and encourages mild exercise. Next year, there is just a chance that pet-food expenses will be declared tax-deductable to be treated at par with insurance policy premiums and ULIPs. We await the 2008 Budget with bated breath!

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  2. #2
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    Good read Ganpat

  3. #3
    samaria Guest

    Re: Devangshu Datta: Dog fights and pet-foods

    That's really very good job....
    Keep it up....
    Last edited by karira; 26-12-08 at 05:24 PM. Reason: Deleting Live Link


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