Manpreet Badal , Punjab Finance Minister has been one of the first leaders to raise the necessity of holding a GST Council meeting to rationalise the tax on supplies needed for the pandemic. West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra too had raised this issue. Both have not found space in the committee.
In the recent meeting of the GST Council, the Ministers of the Congress-ruled States had proposed that for all goods needed to deal with COVID-19, the GST should be only 0.1 per cent.
Punjab, which has raised the demand for reducing the high GST rates on corona-linked drugs, sanitizers, oxygen concentraters, etc., to zero, has been excluded by the Central Government from the committee which had recommended reduction in taxes on them.
Manpreet Badal ‘s Letter to Union Finanace Minister
Manpreet Badal had written to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman opposing the high GST rates on all items including medicines ahead of the GST Council meeting. Manpreet Badal had also opposed it during a meeting held on May 27. He said the Union Government has excluded all major states including Punjab, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan etc. He said the Congress cancels the eight Member Committee.
Manpreet Badal has raised critical concerns in his letter to Finance Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitaraman : Life-saving items for COVID-19 imposed Basic Custom Duties of upto 20% & GST upto 18%.
Manpreet Badal during AICC Press briefing
During AICC virtual Press briefing also Manpreet Badal raised some concerning points:
- “States have 75% franchise in GST council. Would you ignore us like this? Section 279 Subset 11 of the Constitution of GST provides for the vice chairman of the GST Council to be made from the opposition state, but has not yet been made vice chairman”.
- Video conferencing meeting is going on, but no rules have been framed for voting in video conferencing.
- “We do not want to give our sovereignty in the hands of the bureaucracy that it is. The decisions taken by the GST Implementation Committee are part of the 50-page agenda.”
- Today, India is in a state of war. At a time this taxation is there, the Congress party demands a 0-rated tax on life saving equipment and medicines.
Earlier, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel had also termed the non-inclusion of members of Congress-ruled states in the committee constituted as contrary to the spirit of cooperative federalism. Now Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Badal has also opposed it. He said that the members of the States who were opposing the high GST rates on medicines etc.
Chief Ministers of the Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have questioned the Union government’s decision to not include Finance Ministers from the Congress-ruled States in the Group of Ministers (GoM) formed to examine the issue of GST exemption to COVID-19 relief material.
8 Member Group of Ministers (GoM)
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad Sangma is the convenor of this eight-member committee. The other members are ministers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana and U.P.
The Centre has constituted an eight-member Group of Ministers (GoM) to decide the GST rates on COVID-related equipment and materials.
The decision to form the GoM was made at an meeting of the GST Council held on Friday.
Chief Minister of Meghalaya , Conrad K Sangma, who heads the GoM, told reporters that a committee in its reports submitted to the GST Council earlier had suggested a certain reduction in the rates of some COVID items, including vaccines, ventilators, hand sanitisers etc.
The GST rates on ventilators and vaccines have been purportedly kept at 18 per cent.
The GoM has to examine the need for GST waiver in case of COVID-19 vaccines, medicines, medical grade oxygen, pulse oximeters, test kits, hand sanitisers, oxygen therapy equipment, ventilators and so on. It has to submit a report by June 8.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot wrote on Twitter, “The Union Government has set up a GoM following the GST Council Meeting of May 28th, 2021. A deliberate attempt has been made to keep the principal Opposition party, the Congress, that has three members in the GST Council out of the GoM.”
Manpreet said that he had also demanded zero in the GST rate on sanitizers, oxygen concentraters and medicines etc. We asked them to zero this rate by 31st March, 2022 and, of course, it should be increased again when the corona is over, but in the council meeting, the Central Government said that these medicines are also used in diseases other than corona. Manpreet Badal said the Congress has raised the issue at the national level and has cancelled the committee.