HOURS BEFORE the midnight rollout of Goods and Service Tax (GST), Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday slammed the Narendra Modi government for keeping the “arrest clause” in GST and said this would bring back “the mockery of Inspector Raj”.
Mamata alleged that the Centre might use the clause to target business leaders who dared to raise their voice.
“I am shocked to find that the GST rules contain a rather draconian arrest clause, which can lead to major harassment of businesses, particularly the small and medium, with some sections even being non-bailable too. Given the atmosphere in the country of vindictively targeting anyone who dares to disagree with the Central Government, I am deeply concerned that the arrest clause in GST may well be used to target business leaders who raise their voice of dissent on any policy matter or any practices,” Mamata wrote on her Facebook page.
The Centre is set to roll out GST on Friday midnight amid protest from the Opposition. The chief minister was of the view that the freedom and democracy in the country were in grave danger and the GST would bring darkness in the lives of entrepreneurs and common people.
“At the stroke of midnight on 14th August, 1947, India won her freedom. Now, at the midnight of 30th June, 2017, freedom and democracy stand to face grave danger. The mockery of Inspector Raj is back,” she said.
Asserting that West Bengal had opposed the arrest clause in GST council, Mamata said, “I would like to point out that under the current VAT regime, the field officials of the state do not have the power to arrest. If they feel that there is a serious tax offence, then they will have to file an FIR and pursue the due process of law. But, in the case of GST, the inspectors will have the power to arrest on 4 different types of offences, which can lead to 1-5 years of jail term. West Bengal opposed this arrest clause in the GST council but the Government of India did not pay any heed.”
“In fact, in the name of GST, they have deviated in many areas from the original intent. I am afraid, from the midnight of today, will darkness loom large in the lives of entrepreneurs and common people?” she asked.
Meanwhile, State Finance Minister Amit Mitra said that GST was half-baked and dangerous in its present state.
“Should we be sitting and clapping when we know in our hearts that the country is not ready for it? Mamata Banerjee has said that we are not against GST rollout. But we are not yet ready for it. Postpone GST launch for now. We have together made GST happen. Nobody needs to seek credit, it is to everybody’s credit, provided we are ready for it. Where is the white paper on preparedness? GST is half-baked and dangerous in its present state,” he said.
Mitra further said that the implementation of GST should have been postponed for a month before its rollout and maintained that the Centre should not have forced it on people. “Why have those running small and medium enterprises, which comprise 80 per cent of India’s employment providers and are responsible for 40 per cent of India’s GDP, gone on strike? They are crying out loud, saying we are not ready for GST, give us some time. We need just a month. With a focused effort, we can get GST done together as a team, but not in this ‘physically zabardast’ way,” he said.