I’ve wasted several man days trying to get the DSC (digital signature) working in the GST portal. A few months back I spent a lot of time getting it working on Windows 10, on which I had specifically installed Google Chrome for this purpose. With all the automatic updates and changes, we could not get the DSC working again, since last week. I’ve been tinkering for a few days and I realized that the problem is with the GST technical implementation.
The GST portal and department has not been truthful to the people of India. Just imagine, if we could have spent the wasted time with our families and loved ones, instead of fixing the DSC problem, which is not our own making.
You have to look at the GST System Requirements to understand what the government wants from you. It stipulates that you need – Desktop Browser: Internet Explorer 10+/ Chrome 49+ or Firefox 45+. There is no qualification on the OS – whether it is Windows 10, 8, 7 and so on or Mac OS Mountain Lion, High Sierra or whatever.
After following all the guidelines on the GST System Requirements page, I realized that I was wasting my time. While signing with the DSC, I was continuing to get an error that the GST page was unable to connect to the server. I read several online Help pages, but it was just not working.
I began thinking from first principles. The browser has to first communicate with a Java application called emSigner. This application, emSigner, is the GST’s so called server, that is able to communicate with your digital signature token, which is typically purchased by you and provided to you on a USB drive. If the browser is unable to communicate with the emSigner, then it means that the Java interface will not function.
In my case, I was running Windows 10. I had 3 browsers installed- Microsoft Edge (updated in Feb 2018), Google Chrome (Version 63.0.3239.132) and FireFox (57.0.1). At least my Chrome and FireFox comply with the requirements of the GST portal (Chrome 49+ or Firefox 45+).
Next, I checked whether java communication is enabled in the brower, by typing https://java.com/verify in the browser address bar. To my surprise, Chrome 63+ and Firefox 57+ gives feedback that Java is not compatible with it.
So, is it truthful for the Government of India and GST to publish such inaccurate system requirements on its GST portal? Is it fair for it to mislead Indian businesses?
Forget Microsoft Edge, Java is not even supported. Instead, in Windows 10, you have an option to open a page in the legacy Internet Explorer (IE). Apparently, Java does work in IE. For brevity, I’ll refer you all to a solution posted on another blog site post.
Assuming that everything is working correctly (browser, emSigner and your DSC token), my team is often running into a problem of not being able to access the GST portal server, for submission. This is another strange problem.
I did some digging around and found that Infosys was awarded the contract to implement the GST portal technology. The Indian Government contracted them for Rs. 1380 crores. Further, about 40 lakh businesses filed GST returns in July 2017, when it first started. It is also reported that in October 2017, about 50.1 lakh businesses filed GST returns and that the collections were about Rs. 83,346 crores (US $ 23 billion).
These 50 lakh (5 million) business have to file GST returns in three forms – GSTR-1 (details of all sales made and itemization of individual sales invoices), GSTR-2 (details of all purchases made and itemization of purchase invoices) and GSTR-3 (summary reconciliation of GSTR-1 and GSTR-2 and determines whether a company has to pay net taxes or receive a credit). This is a heck of a lot of data! Just imagine, a typical average might be about 500 Invoices (purchases and sales) for a company and we have about 5 million companies, for a total of 2.5 billion invoices. Multiply these 2.5 billion invoices with about 10 data points for each invoice and we have about 25 billion data points per month. All this data has to stored on Government Servers for years together, practically forever, hopefully.
What is the kind of investment required to maintain such huge mounts of data? One needs state-of-the-art data centers, that are reliable and secure. I only know that Infosys was paid Rs. 1380 crore (US $0.2 billion) for the implementation. I am not in the know of how much the Indian Government has spent on the GST data center or where it is. For comparison, Google invests about US $11 billion each year and Facebook about US $2.5 billion each year on their data centers. How much do you think the Indian Government has spent on its GST data centers? I hazard an estimate – probably a few hundred million dollars at the most and certainly not a billion dollars.
If I were to take an educated guess, the Indian businesses are struggling to file and access the GST portal due to sub-standard and poor technology infrastructure – both in terms of inadequate server hardware and terrible software technology.
In my opinion the Indian Government has to be honest and transparent with its citizens. It should humbly tell us how much it has spent on server hardware and software. It should be honest about using current and relevant software technology, and also communicate it clearly to Indian businesses.
Knowing very well that the browsers (Edge, IE, Chrome, FireFox) have deprecated Java, they should have abandoned it and used the latest industry standard web technologies. They knew this before GST was introduced (July 2017), but they still went ahead with Java. Is this being honest?
Most importantly, I don’t want the Indian politicians gloating about how they have implemented GST and using hyperbole of catching dishonest businesses. I want the Indian Government to be first honest with the people. If it is honest, people of India will also automatically be honest. It is this type of culture that is needed today in India, to transform itself into a progressive country.
Is the Government of India up for this challenge?