'GST in present form not acceptable to Bengal'
Heightening uncertainties about the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra on Tuesday said that its assembly will not move the bills required to roll out the new indirect tax.
GST is scheduled to be rolled out on July 1. While the Parliament had passed all the four GST-related bills during the budget session, states will have to ratify the State-GST legislation to rollout the new tax. Twenty-two states have so far passed the SGST Bill, other states have time until the first week of June to ratify it.
The dissent was expressed by Amit Mitra, state finance minister at the state secretariat in Kolkata on Tuesday. He will raise the West Bengal's objections in the next GST council meeting on June 3, Mitra said.
Mitra also said that he will object to the Centre's proposal to levy GST on items such as shoes, wig, and vernacular cinema. "I shall also highlight that there are major objections from different sectors of the state to roll out GST from July 1. The services sector is against it".
Rolling out GST as it stands today will be a double-burden on the states that are yet to recover from the shocks of demonetisation, said the Bengal finance minister, who was also the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers.
Moreover, Mitra once again voiced his doubt over the preparedness to roll out GST on July 1 with over 40 per cent of the GST suvidha providers yet to test the network from their end.
In a press conference held in Nabanna on Tuesday, Mitra said, as Bengal's representative in the GST council, he had to fight in the three previous meetings of the council to ensure that tax was not imposed on items of everyday use. As a result of Mitra's staunch opposition, the GST council has decided to exempt tax on food grains, vegetables, fruits, fresh and pasteurised milk, puffed rice, betel leaf, poultry and cattle feed, newspaper, health services, etc.
Clearing the confusion that he had a big say in the imposition of tax on such goods that would leave a deep impact on different industries, Mitra said: "I was made the chairman of the empowered committee on GST of which finance ministers of 29 states and 2 union territories were members. But, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley is the chairman of the GST Council, where I am just a member. I am fighting under the leadership of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee so that the people of our state don't get unduly harassed."
He said that Bengal had opposed the proposed 12 per cent tax on raw cashew. Similarly, they have proposed 12 percent tax on footwear.
Criticising the move of the Council to impose a tax on books, Partha Chatterjee, the state Parliamentary Affairs minister, said: "It seems that they don't want people to read books." He took a dig at the BJP saying they might want everyone to take up swords instead of a pen.