The chief ministers of the Congress-ruled Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh on Tuesday questioned the Union government’s decision to not include finance ministers of the states in the Group of Ministers formed to examine the matter of Goods and Services Tax exemption to coronavirus relief material.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot alleged that the exclusion was “deliberate”.
In a series of decisions taken on May 28, the Goods and Service Tax Council formed a Group of Ministers to examine tax waiver on essential items like vaccines, medicines, pulse oximeters, test kits, hand sanitisers, oxygen therapy equipment and ventilators, among others.
Meghalaya Chief Minister Conrad K Sangma is the convener of the eight-member committee constituted by the Centre. Other members of the group include ministers from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh.
“Keeping out the Congress members is most unfortunate and strikes at the very roots of cooperative federalism,” Gehlot tweeted. “It is pertinent to mention that from the states of West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Punjab, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu who had taken a stand contrary to that of the proposed agenda, none has been included in the GoM.”
He asked the eight members of the GoM to reflect on the exclusion of the Congress finance ministers before they proceed with their deliberations. The members will have to submit their recommendations to the GST Council on or before June 8.
“We also urge the members of GoM to take into account views expressed by Rajasthan and other mentioned states, wherein we had asked for a Zero Tax Rate for Covid-related supplies in public interest,” Gehlot added.
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel said not including a minister from Congress-ruled states in the panel was against the spirit of cooperative federalism, PTI reported. “The Congress has been continuously demanding exemption of GST on vaccines, medicines and other equipment to effectively combat the Covid-19 pandemic at all levels,” the chief minister told reporters in Raipur.
Calling the Centre’s decision “unfortunate”, Baghel added that ministers of Congress-ruled states had proposed to keep tax rate on Covid relief material at 0.1%, instead of 5%, or sought total exemption at the meeting last week.