Srinagar: Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Sunday assured the business leaders of the valley that under the proposed Goods and Service Tax (GST) bill, she will not ‘allow the surrender of state’s financial autonomy to the GST council’.
Free Press Kashmir had reported on Saturday that Mehbooba had called for a meeting with the business community after they had planned to hit the streets against the passing of the GST bill in its current form.
Among those who were invited by the CM for a meeting were President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry Mushtaq Wani, Chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance Mohammad Yaseen Khan, President of the Hotelier’s Club Mushtaq Chaya and President of the Federation of Commerce and Industries Ashraf Mir.
Speaking to Free Press Kashmir after meeting the CM, Wani said that the business community has made it very clear that by passing the GST, the government will surrender financial powers to the GST council.
“We told her that this should not happen at any cost as we cannot surrender our autonomy to a council,” Wani said.
CM was also apprised that in 1954, Direct Taxes were applied in the state by virtue of a Presidential order, which have not been reversed or reviewed till date.
“If the centre is telling her that they will reverse or review GST after five years or so, then this 1954 order is a classic example that once applied, it can’t be undone,” Wani asserted.
Mehbooba has ‘assured’ the business community that she will not allow any kind of financial surrender.
“After listening to our concerns which are genuine, the CM has assured us that she will not take any such step which will lead to the surrender of JK’s financial autonomy,” Wani informed.
The Chairman of the Kashmir Economic Alliance Mohammad Yaseen Khan, who was also present in the meeting said that the only thing which was discussed in the meeting with Mehbooba was that our special status should not be eroded at any cost.
“By implementing GST in our disputed state, it will erode our special status. That should not happen at any cost, “Khan said while adding, “We told her that whatever happened in the previous regime, she should not repeat it as PDP’s slogan of Self Rule also respects the special status of the state.”
Like Wani, Khan also stressed on the fact that CM ‘assured’ that she will not allow any erosion of the state’s special status.
“She was also of the same view. She assured us again and again in the meeting that she will not pass the GST if it erodes the special status of the state,” Khan said.
Wani also lashed out at the commercial tax department for issuing notifications regarding registration under the GST when it has not been even applied here.
“Under what act they want us to register? The act is not in practice here yet. So how can they ask us to register? When the Govt is thinking of not passing the act or bring in an act with accordance to the special status of the state, then why are they asking us to register,” Wani asked. He added, “The CM again assured us that she would take care of everything.”
In the meeting the Chief Minister asked the business leaders that previously, VAT was introduced and this is for the first time that GST bill is being introduced through the state legislature.
The KCCI President however replied, “VAT was introduced but the financial powers lied with the state legislature. Now with GST, those powers will no longer exist.”
“Also if you introduce the bill in the legislature or through an ordinance and then discuss it and pass it, you are automatically surrendering the financial autonomy of the state to the GST council,” Wani added.
Another business leader on condition of anonymity said that the Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu has written a series of articles previously against the same GST which he wants to pass now.
“That is not hidden. You just have to go into the archives of the Greater Kashmir newspaper and you will see what he used to write about the bill. Now suddenly, his GST is better than the one which was proposed under the previous regime. I don’t know to how even react to such blatant hypocrisy,” he said.
Drabu in a recent presser said that GST bill will be the ‘first full federalism Indian union will experience in the state.”
While defending ‘his GST’ Drabu said, “I was not against the GST per se but since I have taken over (as FinMin of J&K), we have affected huge changes in the GST draft bill and the GST we are going to implement in state is ‘all-together’ different from what was being discussed during my predecessors regime.”