June 15, 2021 6:05:31 am
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Monday alleged that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council was functioning as an “omnipotent authority with a majoritarian approach”. Mitra also complained that the group of ministers in the council was being silenced.
Addressing a virtual press conference on Monday, Mitra said, “It is unfortunate that the consensus-driven GST Council is now showing ubiquitous, omnipotent, authoritarian and majoritarian approach. Such an approach not only destroys the federal institution but also turns down zero GST on medical supplies required to contain Covid-19 spread is an anti-people move.”
The minister demanded a probe into how his microphone was “muted” during the 44th GST Council meeting on Saturday. He also asked the Centre to find out who did it. Mitra said he tried his best to “raise objections” during the meeting but the virtual link was snapped at a “critical time”. He said he had written a letter to Union Minister of Finance Nirmala Sitharaman to record his dissent, but had not received any reply.
“I was heard repeatedly in the meeting. But during the concluding part, I kept on raising my hand and you could see me… All [other] microphones were unmuted by the Centre’s web management team. My microphone was muted and I could see it… I am not a fool. Please investigate and let me know. Why was my microphone muted at a critical time when I wanted to put across my dissent? I am giving the benefit of the doubt,” said Mitra, adding that he shared a “very cordial relationship” with the Union minister.
Speaking about the lack of consensus in the council, the minister said states gave up 70 per cent of their taxation rights to embrace GST as earlier consensus was the approach for decision making. But this had shifted to an authoritarian approach, he added.
“There is a dramatic shift from consensus mechanism to authoritarian and majoritarian approach in the GST Council,” the minister said adding, “It destroys the only federal structure in the country.”
On Saturday, the Centre announced the reduction of taxes on several medical supplies, including medical oxygen, ventilators and testing kits from 12 to 5 per cent. The tax on ambulances was slashed from 28 to 12 per cent, while the GST on crematorium furnaces came down from 18 to 5 per cent while the tax on thermal guns or body temperature checking equipment was reduced from 12 per cent to 5 per cent. The council said no GST would be levied on the drugs Remdesivir and Tocilizumab that are used to treat Covid-19 patients.
With PTI inputs
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