Ravi S Singh
Today News Online Service
New Delhi, May 27
The Punjab government on Thursday used the Congress forum and credit line to escalate and give pan-India contours to its angst through its Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal against alleged wobbly implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, including on vacancy of the post of vice chairman, and demanded clarity on rules governing the tax collecting body.
Badal held the forte during Congress’ regular media briefing, expressing concern that the rules relating to the GST were nebulous, and not adhered to by the Union government, including holding quarterly meeting, which is the legal iron ball of the dispensation.
In essence, Badal reiterated the issues which he had raised in his recent letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.
He expressed concern at the vacancy of the post of vice chairman, who would be elected from among the finance ministers of the states, and at not activating the laid down grievance redressal mechanism, since get-go.
The other opposition-ruled states, including West Bengal and Kerala, have also expressed concerns with the Centre in the matter.
He said had the post of vice chairman been activated, there would have been a Secretariat and forum to allow the states’ finance ministers to meet and exchange views.
Also, the states would be in a position to push forth their issues as agenda points of GST meetings.
“We would like to have a review of the rules. They must be transparent and there should be unambiguity about them,” Badal said.
He said that due to faulty implementation of rules and ambiguity, bona fide and established businessmen were hounded, their bank accounts and assets frozen.
He said he has raised these issues in his letter to Sitharaman.
“We are feeling cheated and frustrated. We want to see India prosper and eradicate its myriad problems.”
He flayed the Union Finance Ministry for allowing the Committee of Officers to adjudicate and change substantive rules which were beyond their remit, and hence their action ultra vires.
He said that even in the face of Covid pandemic, the GST meetings had not been convened for over six months.
He said the government should allow exemption including of medicines, medical devices and PPE kits from GGS to enable the states to deal with the pandemic.
He said Punjab is facing shortage of oxygen, ventilators, medicines and vaccinations, among others. However, he underlined that the situation is not as bad as in some other states.
Responding to a specific query, he said the payment of the GST arrears by the Centre to states is on track.