In the making since 2000, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will finally kick-in from July 1. Touted by the government as the biggest tax reform since Independence, the GST will be launched at midnight at a function inside Parliament's Central Hall.
But there are grave concerns expressed by politicians, traders, economists and researchers throughout the country.
Leading the group is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continuing with her criticism, adding that the country's freedom and democracy now "stand to face grave danger." Expressing her concern over the "Inspector Raj", she said: "The mockery of Inspector Raj is back."
In a Facebook post, she stated: "I am shocked to find that the GST rules contain a rather draconian arrest clause which can lead to major harassment of business, particularly the small and medium, with some sections even being non-bailable too. I would like to point out that under the current VAT regime; the field officials of the State do not have the power to arrest. If they feel that there is a serious tax offence, then they will have to file a FIR and pursue the due process of law. But in the case of GST, the Inspectors will have the power to arrest on four different types of offences which can lead to jail from 1 year up to 5 years."
Bengal had opposed this arrest clause in the GST Council but the Government of India did not pay any heed.
"In fact, in the name of GST, they have deviated in many areas from the original intent. Given the atmosphere in the country of vindictively targeting anyone who dares to disagree with the Central government, I am deeply concerned that the arrest clause in GST may well be used to target business leaders who raise their voice of dissent on any policy matter or any practices," said Banerjee.
"I am afraid, from the midnight of today, will darkness loom large in the lives of entrepreneurs and common people?"
It may be recalled that while addressing a gathering at the Police Lines in Purba Burdwan on Thursday, Banerjee had said that the Centre had forced the states to accept GST at gunpoint. "We had initially supported GST but later wanted some modifications and now the country is not prepared to implement it," she had said.
Banerjee said, like demonetisation, GST would be a "huge disaster" with the common man getting badly affected. She reiterated that the Trinamool Congress will raise its voice against the hasty implementation of GST. "Our party is of the people, for the people and by the people and we will continue to work for them," she reiterated.