West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to waive the Goods and Services Tax (GST), customs duty and other taxes on medical equipment such as oxygen concentrators and cylinders, and drugs required to treat Covid-19 patients.
This was her third letter to Modi in the past one week.
After taking oath last Wednesday, Banerjee had requested the prime minister for more medicines, oxygen supplies and vaccines. On Friday, she again wrote to him, urging the Centre to raise West Bengal’s medical oxygen allocation to 550 MT. Banerjee warned that anything less would lead to the deaths of Covid patients. She also criticised the Centre for increasing the allocation to other states from the medical oxygen produced in West Bengal.
Requesting the tax waivers, the chief minister wrote in Sunday’s letter, “A large number of organisations, individuals and benevolent agencies have come forward to donate oxygen concentrators, cylinders, cryogenic storage tanks, tankers and tank containers and Covid-related drugs. Donations from these organisations will greatly supplement the efforts of the state government in meeting the huge gap in demand and supply.”
She added, “However, many of the donors and agencies have approached the state government to consider exemption of these items from customs duty/SGST/CGST/lGST. As the rate structure falls under the purview of the Central Government, I would request that these items may be exempted from GST/customs duty and other such duties and taxes, to help remove supply constraints of the abovementioned life-saving drugs and equipment and contribute towards effective management of COVID pandemic.”
The chief minister also urged Modi to strengthen the country’s health infrastructure and augment the supplies of equipment, medicines and oxygen for the treatment of Covid patients.
The West Bengal government has been at odds with the Centre over the slow vaccination policy. It moved the Supreme Court on Friday, urging it to direct the Centre to disband the third phase of the vaccine rollout for those in the 18-44 years age group, and set aside the differential pricing mechanism for vaccines. The price of vaccine shots should be capped at a uniform Rs 150 per dose, it added.
The government called for a uniform policy of procuring 100 per cent doses from manufacturers, and said these should be equitably provided to all the states and Union Territories through a free decentralised distribution process.
Mamata pays tribute to ‘philosopher, guide’
Banerjee and Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar paid tribute to Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore on his 160th birth anniversary at a programme at Cathedral Road in Kolakata on Sunday.
Banerjee and some officials paid floral tribute at Cathedral Road, while the rest of the programme was held virtually due to the Covid-19 situation.
“Homage to Kobiguru Rabindranath Tagore on his 160th birth anniversary. May his ideals be the guiding force in all our endeavours,” tweeted Banerjee.
“Because of the covid pandemic, we arranged this programme virtually. Many artist will participate in this programme from home and we will telecast it. Rabindranath Tagore is our world image. He introduced us to the world. He is our friend, philosopher and guide. He will remain our guide in our life,” she said.