Kolkata — Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee here on Tuesday reiterated her strong opposition to the introduction of Goods and Services Tax(GST) by the Union government from 1 July, but also said her government was compelled to implement it in the State to prevent an imminent closure of the State exchequer which, in turn, might lead to the withholding of salaries of government employees last month.
Participating in a discussion at the West Bengal Assembly on the GST Bill before its passage as a law, like in all other States,the chief minister said, as no State was in a position to control the role of banks because it came under the jurisdiction of the Union government, they were also not in a position to defy the provisions of GST.
Referring to the immense difficulties being faced by the common people under the new GST regime as the rate of taxes on many items had gone up manifold — as high as 28 % — the chief minister cited the examples of a few items and said, since 1 July, the cost of even common medicines, sweets and several textile items had increased substantially.
“In view of this, I even asked (West Bengal) Finance Minister Amit Mitra to step down from the chairmanship of the ministerial empowered committee of GST. As a result, it was not him but Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who chaired the last few meetings of GST before implementing it unilaterally”, the chief minister stated in the House.
Elaborating on the reasons behind her decision to pass the GST Bill in the State Assembly last among all States including Jammu and Kashmir, the chief minister said she was bound to implement it to maintain the federal structure of democracy even as “we are strongly opposing it at every stage”.
Later, Amit Mitra, in his speech, left no stone unturned to criticise the Centre for implementing GST in a most hurried manner, allegedly without concern for its possible catastrophic consequences on the ordinary citizen.
“It is wrong to assume that we supported the Bill initially”, he said and reiterated that, apart from opposing it several times, there were instances when he even walked out of a number of GST ministerial meetings as a mark of protest.
As a result of GST, not only had most of the daily items become costlier, their supply had also been affected severely, he said and cited the examples of non-availability of many medicines in the State, creating tremendous problems to the people.
Even the cost of school bags along with those of foodgrains, meat and even small agricultural products had gone up, the finance minister said, manifold during the past one month. Mitra stated further that he had already drawn the attention o f the Union finance minister to wards the issue and demanded an early rollback.
“Though we have no other option but to pass the Bill along with the rest of the country, our stiff opposition to most of GST clauses would continue for ever”, Mitra said.
The Bill was passed subsequently through voice votes.
Ankur Bhattacharya/Hindusthan Samachar