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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Banning wheat export an anti-farmer measure, Chidambaram flays Centre

Congress asks the central government to extend the GST compensation period by another three years, adds that the “time is ripe for a comprehensive review of Centre-states fiscal relations.”

Written by Manoj C G | Udaipur |
Updated: May 14, 2022 11:42:41 am
Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram (File)

The Congress on Saturday hit out at the central government over its decision to ban the export of all wheat from the country, calling it an anti-farmer measure. Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram said inadequate procurement of wheat may have driven the government to take such a decision.

Chidambaram, who is the convenor of the Congress panel deliberating on economic issues at the Chintan Shivir here, also made it clear that if the government discontinues the payment of GST compensation to states, the party will strongly oppose it. The government is likely to inform states about its decision at the next meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council.

Sources said the declaration at the end of the Udaipur Nav Sankalp Shivir will officially announce the party’s opposition to the discontinuation of GST compensation to states.

On wheat exports, he said “I presume that it is because the central government has failed to procure enough wheat. It is not that wheat production has come down. It is more or less the same. In fact, it may be marginally more. Yesterday, I was told by the Chhattisgarh minister that they have been able to procure 97 lakh tonnes of paddy. So if procurement had taken place… there would not be any need to ban the export of wheat,” he said.

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“Let me add. Banning the export of wheat is an anti-farmer measure. It deprives the farmer of reaping the benefits of higher export prices. It is an anti-farmer measure. And I am not surprised. This government has never been very friendly to the farmer,” he added.

“On the GST, we believe that the compensation period of five years that will expire on June 30, 2022 must… be extended at least by another three years. We would disapprove if any attempt is made by the central government or the Union Finance Minister to railroad the GST Council and prevent it from recommending an extension of the GST compensation period by another three years. We will strongly oppose that. And we will insist that it be extended,” Chidambaram said.

He said the Centre is yet to pay Rs 78,704 crore as compensation to states till March 31. “We are already in the middle of May and this amount has not been paid. And the compensation period will come to an end on June 30. I believe it is the unanimous demand of all the state governments that the compensation period must be extended and arrears of GST must be paid forthwith.”

Chidambaram said the “time is ripe for a comprehensive review of Centre-states fiscal relations.”

“The consequences of the poorly drafted and unfairly implemented GST laws brought in by the Modi government in 2017 are there for everyone to see. The states’ fiscal position is fragile as never before and needs urgent remedial measures,” he added.

Chidambaram said there is a “complete breakdown of trust” between the central government and the state governments. “If you think that only the non-BJP state governments have expressed this breakdown of trust, you are wrong. Privately, we know that even BJP finance ministers who attend the GST council have expressed their dismay and concern about the complete breakdown of trust.”

Asked about bringing petrol and diesel under the ambit of GST, he referred to the “complete breakdown of trust” and said “there is no way, no chance at all of the present government making any headway in trying to persuade states to bring petrol and diesel under GST. There is no chance of that happening under this government.”

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