Implement GST

For more than 12 years the financially crucial subject of Goods and Service Tax (GST) regime is under the discussion of financial experts and economists of the country. Foreign financial wizards have also burnt midnight oil on analysing the pros and cons of the question. In particular such foreign countries as have very good trade relations with India have examined the proposal with great caution. Even during the UPA II regime, the question was very alive and states were asked to convey their views on whether they were disposed to adopt positive response. Being an issue of far reaching consequences for the masses of the people in our country, no decision could be taken in hurry and haste. That is understandable and we will not cast aspersions on the previous Government for not taking the issue to its logical conclusion.
However, Prime Minister Modi, supported by his cabinet colleagues and particularly the Finance Minister, opened the question for public debate and views of renowned economists and financiers of the countries. The consensus opinion that evolved at the end of the day was that GST with a slew of amendments suggested and incorporated would be beneficial to the people. The opposition led by Congress had initially expressed its reservations but when the Finance Minister engaged opposition leadership in a dispassionate debate on the pros and cons of the subject, they felt satisfied. At the end of the day, the GST Bill was passed unanimously by both Houses of the Parliament.
Passage of GST Bill by the Parliament was not to the credit of only BJP-led Government at the Centre nor can it be called exclusive achievement of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is the achievement of entire Indian nation because the financial benefits accruing from it will reach each and every Indian citizen.
NC-Congress Government led by Omar Abdullah was in power in the State when Central Finance Ministry desired the State Finance Ministers of all States to take the GST for due consideration. The then Government of Omar Abdullah constituted a committee headed by Abdul Rahim Rather, the then Finance Minister to consider if the State would propose any amendment to the draft bill so that the same could be conveyed to the Union Finance Ministry. However, after the change in the Government, the matter had to be pursued by the incumbent PDP-BJP coalition Government. The issue became more pressing when the Parliament passed the GST through unanimous vote. Since the Act passed by the Parliament cannot be applied to the State without the nod by the Assembly, the Coalition Government, after duly considering what amendments could be thought of to ensure that the Act was extended to the State through the channel of Legislative Assembly and at the same time financial autonomy of the State was not jeopardized. The Coalition Government has meticulously processed the case through legal, administrative and technical channels, like expert opinion, civil society’s nod and then the Cabinet approval and then has done the constitutionally right thing of calling special session of the Legislature to deliberate on the issue and take the final decision. It seems that the Government has meticulously observed the democratic, legal and administrative norms necessary for the passage of the bill in the Legislature.
It is rather amusing that of all the political opposition National Conference is overtly creating unfounded doubts that the Coalition Government has ulterior motives and is compromising financial autonomy of the State. Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu has made a forceful defence of Government’s apt handling of the issue and he has disarmed the opposition especially National Conference by turning the argument on them. His cogent argument is that an Act that is going to be beneficial to such a large population of country cannot be detrimental to the State notwithstanding the special status which it enjoys. Does the special status mean that all carefully considered Acts of the Parliament that would obviously go in the interests of the State be stonewalled under the pretext of special status and Article 370?   The Finance Minister said that never was a Constitutional Amendment Bill passed by the Parliament brought before the State Legislature for bringing the State within its ambit. He pointed out that around 46 amendments have been extended through Presidential order to J&K which have gradually eroded the special Constitutional position of J&K. As against this, the Government has called a special session to debate the bill. This shows that the Coalition Government wants to restore the power and status of the Legislative Assembly that had been eroded.
Obviously, NC now sitting in opposition, has no cogent argument to oppose extension of the Act to the State. By raising a bogey of erosion of financial autonomy, the opposition is only endorsing its ignorance about the ins and outs of the GST. It is opposition for the sake of opposition otherwise it could have come out with constructive suggestions like feasible amendments based on the interests of the people. In final analysis we will say that far from the allegation of eroding the financial autonomy of the State, its rejection will be of immense detriment to the financial health of the State.