WB Finance Minister Amit Mitra writes to Sitharaman, dissents over GST on COVID-19 drugs

West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra has expressed dissent against the Goods and Services Tax Council‘s decisions to levy tax on Covid-19 medicines and other relief materials at 5% that he alleged was forced upon states.

Mitra shot off a letter to Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is also the GST Council chairman, soon after the council meeting on Saturday. The council had earlier in the day decided to reduce tax rates on several Covid-related medicines and other material while maintaining a 5% tax on vaccines in line with recommendations of a group of ministers. The decision, Mitra alleged, was taken despite state finance ministers including himself asking for zero-rating or imposing a 0.1% GST on all materials used for treatment of Covid-19 cases.

“This is totally an anti-people decision that is being thrust on us at the GST Council. As representatives of the people we have no way to justify these decisions of draconian nature,” Mitra said in his letter to the finance minister.

ET has seen a copy of the letter.

Zero-rating would require some changes in the law which could have been done via ordinance, Mitra said, noting that former GST Council member and Bihar deputy chief minister Sushil Modi had also proposed a 0.1% GST.

Mitra claimed his objections against the decisions were not recorded and the videoconferencing link to the meeting was cut off after the secretary brought the meeting to an end. He said he was not given the floor to express his views and instead the minister from Uttar Pradesh was given the chance. “This and other instances in today’s GST Council meeting have dealt a major blow to the spirit of cooperative federalism, undermining the very ethos of the GST Council,” Mitra claimed.

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Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur, responded in a series of tweets saying Sitharaman had never stifled dissent, and that Mitra did not appear to have a stable network connection during the meeting. “The Finance Minister has never stifled dissent in the GST Council. It is unbecoming of a senior member of Council to suggest that this has happened,” Thakur said.



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