Chhattisgarh chief minister Bhupesh Baghel has accused the Centre of violating the principle of cooperative federalism by not including any minister from a Congress-ruled state in the panel formed to consider Goods and Services Tax (GST) exemptions and concessions on essentials needed to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The (GST) Council on Saturday constituted an eight-member panel led by Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma. The other members are state ministers from Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala, Odisha, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh. While Kerala, Odisha and Telangana are ruled by opposition parties such as the Left, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), Maharashtra is ruled by a coalition of Shiv Sena, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Congress.
Baghel has argued that ministers from Congress-ruled states, who are part of the GST Council, should be included in the Group of Ministers (GoM) formed to discuss the GST rates on Covid relief material, as their exclusion is against the spirit of cooperative federalism.
For the last several days, opposition-ruled states including Congress-ruled Punjab were demanding GST exemption on vaccines, medicines and other devices used to fight the pandemic. Baghel alleged that Congress was deliberately left out of the panel to ignore this demand.
The panel will consider GST exemptions or concessions for Covid vaccines, drugs, testing kits, medical grade oxygen, pulse oximeters, hand sanitisers, oxygen therapy instruments including concentrators, generators and ventilators, PPE kits, N95 masks, surgical masks, thermometers and any other items required for Covid relief. Currently, vaccines and cotton masks attract 5% GST, but most other items fall in the 12% tax slab, while alcohol-based sanitisers, hand wash gels, disinfectants and thermometers attract 18% GST.
The GoM, which includes Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma, Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitinbhai Patel, Maharashtra deputy CM Ajit Pawar, Goa transport minister Mauvin Godinho, Kerala finance minister KN Balagopal, Odisha finance minister Niranjan Pujari, Telangana finance minister T Harish Rao and UP finance minister Suresh Kr Khanna, will submit its recommendations to the GST Council on or before June 8.