West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Wednesday wrote to his central counterpart Nirmala Sitharaman alleging that there has been a steady breakdown of the spirit of cooperative federalism in Goods and Service Tax Council meetings, PTI reported.
“What pains me most is the fact that GST Council meetings have become acrimonious, vexing and almost toxic with erosion of mutual trust that had held fast between state and the Centre since the inception of the GST Council,” Mitra said.
He urged Sitharaman to consider a “course correction” to restore consensus-based approach in the decision making process.
In the three-page letter, Mitra said that on June 13 his voice was “muzzled” during the GST Council meeting. His opposition to impose taxes on coronavirus relief material like vaccines, masks and anti-viral drug remdesivir was not heard.
The West Bengal finance minister also recalled instances where sharp differences emerged between the states and the central government without “bitterness or antagonism”. “But, now I am afraid that arriving at such a consensus, even for much simpler matters, has become elusive,” Mitra wrote.
He noted that this was a dangerous time for the GST apparatus as the resources of the state governments were in dire distress. “The gap between projected revenue and revenue collected has ballooned to Rs 2.75 lakh crore and the actual compensation due to the states for 2020-’21 has reached Rs 74,398 crore,” Mitra added.
Despite this, the central government comes to GST council meetings with a “predetermined conclusion”, Mitra said.