Convene virtual meet of GST Council: Bengal finance minister to Sitharaman

The letter came three days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which she requested the Centre to waive GST, customs duty and other taxes on oxygen equipment and drugs required to treat Covid-19 patients.

West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra on Wednesday wrote a letter to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, urging her to convene a virtual meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council to discuss the crisis caused by the Covid-19 second wave, and “restore the sanctity” of the organisation.

The letter came three days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in which she requested the Centre to waive GST, customs duty and other taxes on oxygen equipment and drugs required to treat Covid-19 patients.

In his letter, Mitra wrote, “You are kindly aware that the GST Council was mandated to meet once in every quarter. Unfortunately, this solemn mandate has been violated twice over, by not calling a meeting of the Council for two consecutive quarters — not even virtually. This has undermined a federalist institution, where all states are represented irrespective of political parties, regions or sizes of population, along with the Government of India. I fear that not holding meetings regularly may also lead to a trust deficit. In order to restore the sanctity of the Council, I sincerely urge you to call a virtual meeting of the GST Council.”

The state minister said the council needs to discuss, among other things, an “alarming shortfall that is expected in the compensation to states”. He added, “As per Gol projection, the shortfall was expected to be to the tune of Rs. 1,56,164 crores in 2021-’22, without taking into consideration the impact of Covid Wave-2. Now, due to Covid Wave-2 and lockdowns, the compensation will be much higher than what was projected earlier. This is undoubtedly deeply distressing.”

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