One Nation, One Tax
Shortly after midnight on Friday, the nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) was officially rolled out by Prime Minister Narendra Modi after the sounding of a ceremonial gong overhauling India's indirect taxation system and unifying the $2 trillion economy with 1.3 billion people into a single market.
The GST, which will replace more than a dozen Central and state levies like factory-gate, excise duty, service tax and local sales tax or VAT, is India's biggest tax reform in the 70 years of independence and will help modernise Asia's third largest economy.
Several high-profile guests attended the "historic" event at the decked up Central Hall. Brand new carpeting and upholstery, fresh coats of paint and LED bulbs studded all over the building and its pillars made the venue look majestic.
Along with President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior NDA leaders, a host of distinguished guests from the world of culture and industry were in attendance.
Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda shared the dais with President, PM, Vice President, Lok Sabha Speaker at special ceremony for GST launch, while former PM Manmohan Singh skipped the programme.
Notably absent were the Congress-led opposition parties, with the exception of Nitish Kumar's JD (U) and Sharad Pawar's NCP. And even in the JD (U)'s case, Nitish wasn't present; he sent an emissary. The opposition believes the mechanisms aren't in place for the GST rollout and says the implementation will be discriminatory and shoddy.
President Pranab Mukherjee called the GST launch a momentous occasion and the culmination of a 14-year journey.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi described it as a historic move that would end the tax terrorism.
"It's a collective effort, a huge step towards nation building," he said.
"From Ganganagar to Itanagar, from Leh to Lakshadweep, there will be one nation and one tax," Modi added.
"GST maybe a destination tax, but for India, it will begin a new journey altogether," said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley before the official GST launch.
Just a couple of hours before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) roll out, the all-powerful GST Council on Friday night reduced the tax rate on fertiliser to 5 per cent from previously decided 12 per cent.
Arun Jaitley, who heads the GST Council, said the decision to reduce the tax rate on fertiliser was taken because of apprehensions that price of the crop nutrient may go up.