At midnight on June 30, the historic Central Hall of Parliament witnessed the launch of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The event was attended by many well-known figures, from veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan to industry doyen Ratan Tata.
President Pranab Mukherjee along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi officially launched the Bill in Parliament’s Central Hall.
Here are the latest updates:
12.00 am: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee together launch GST.
11.49 pm: "The system where buyers will get credit only when the seller pays tax to the government encourages buyers to engage only with honest sellers. Success of such major change depends on effective implementation in the future. Jai hind!" Mr. President concludes his speech.
11.55 pm: "Though an elaborate voting structure has been created in the gst council, it is remarkable that all decisions across 18 items were taken by consensus. It has pleasantly surprised everybody by completing its task on time. Even for a person like me, who has been involved in tax policies, the scope of this reform is significant. GST will make exports competitive and help domestic industry," Mr. President says.
11.51 pm: "This historic moment is the culmination of a 14-year journey that began in 2002. The introduction of GST is a momentous event for the country and moment of personal satisfaction for me. As part of the empowered committee, I had the opportunity to meet the chief ministers of Gujarat and Maharashtra, among others. I remained confident that GST was only a matter of time. This was justified when on 8 November 2016, I had the opportunity to give assent to the GST legislation. It has pleasantly surprised everybody by completing its task on time," Mr. Mukherjee says.
11.50 pm: President Pranab Mukherjee starts speaking.
11.45 pm: " GST is not just tax reform but it's economic reform. GST is a way forward in the ease of doing business.In the language of law, it is called the goods and services tax, but the benefit of GST is really a Good and Simple Tax. Good because multiple taxes will be removed. Simple because it requires just one form and is easy to use," Mr. Modi says before concluding his speech.
11.40 pm: Small businesses have been kept out of GST and those earning less than 75 lakh have a minimum compliance. Big words have been joined to GST, but in simple terms, this is going to greatly benefit the poor. When 10th and 12th results were released online, then the system would hang and that's what would come on the news the next day. Yes, there are some who are not comfortable with technology. Even if you go to a trusted eye doctor, if your eye power changes, then you still have to adjust for a few days. This (GST) is like that. GST is such a catalyst that will end the imbalance in India's development. GST, much like our railway, will be run by the centre and the states. For the first time, centre and state officials will work together: Mr. Modi says.
11.35 pm: Today, the GST council met for the 18th time. It is significant that the Gita has 18 parts. "As far as something seems, as impossible it seems to achieve, it can be obtained through hard work," Mr. Modi says quoting Chanakya. Just as Sardar Patel played a large part in bringing the country together, GST will do the same on an economic level. Our dream of one nation one tax will be realised. Einstein said if there is something in this world that is difficult to understand, it is income tax. I wonder what he would have said on seeing our multiple tax. The multiple taxes confused the people as well as businesses looking to invest in India: Mr. Modi says.
11.30 pm: It is a place hallowed by the footsteps of great men. Pandit Nehru, Azad, Sarojini Naidu and other great persons sat here. The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 in this place and now many years later, we are taking another historic step. GST is a result of a long thought process. States and Centre equally discussed this for years. The best brains of the country have worked on it. And it is the result of that that we see as the fruition of GST. The GST council, bringing the centre and states together, has maintained the focus on uplifting the poor.I congratulate the GST council: MR. Modi says.
11.20 pm: " Tonight, at midnight, we will together move the nation forward. In a little while, the country will move in a new direction. 125 crore people will benefit from this. I don't agree that GST benefits are limited to just the economy. This path we have chosen is not one party or one government's. It is the result of our combined efforts. We have come together tonight at the central hall of parliament," Mr. Modi says.
11.18 pm: Prime Minister Narendra Modi starts his speech.
11.17 pm: " GST Council met 18-times, and there has never been a need for voting as there was unanimity,"Mr. Jaitley said.
11.15pm: "The journey had started 15-years ago as in 2006, UPA said it would roll out GST by 2010," Mr. Jaitley said.
11.10 pm: Service tax on AC ticket charges will be hiked from 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent, an increase of 0.5 per cent, after the GST implementation.
Similarly, GST on transport of goods by rail will be 5 per cent in place of service tax of 4.5 per cent levied earlier with exemption for essential goods like milk and agriculture produce, reports PTI.
11.04 pm: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley greets Sumitra Mahajan, former PM H.D. Deve Gowda starts his speech. "With GST India is making history. It's an important achievement for the whole country. High point in Indian politics when worls is seeing slow growth," Mr. Jaitley says.
10.55 pm: President Pranab Mukherjee arrives.
10.50pm: Hamid Ansari arrives.
10.35pm: Narendra Modi has arrived in Central Hall of Parliament. Sushma Swaraj, Amit Shah, Arun Jaitley among those present. Mr. Modi was received by Sumitra Mahajan.
9.50pm : The Press Information Bureau's website will have a separate page on the GST. “The webpage on GST is a one-stop platform for all information on the new tax regime,” an official release said. It contains press releases issued till date on the GST in both Hindi and English, besides various presentations and frequently asked questions.
All Members of Parliament, Chief Ministers, State Finance Ministers, GST Council members and officials who helped, and all chairmen of the empowered committees on GST have been invited, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be present, while former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singha and H.D. Deve Gowda have been requested to attend. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan would also be present.
22.55 – President Pranab Mukherjee arrives at Parliament house, received by dignitaries
22.59 – Announcement by Marshal
23.00 – President arrives in Central Hall, followed by National Anthem
23.02 – Felicitation and introductory speech by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
23.10 – Presentation film on the GST
23.15 - Address by Prime Minister Narendra Modi
23.45 – Address by the President
00.00 – Launch of the GST (followed by a film)
00.03 – Announcement by Marshal
00.04 – National Anthem
00.05 – President leaves
Delhi BJP steps in to clear doubts on GST
9.20pm: The Delhi BJP will organise camps to help traders and common people on problems and “misconceptions” related to the GST. Delhi BJP president Manoj Tiwari said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will address a GST-related meeting at the Talkatora Stadium on July 6, reports PTI.
8.25pm: GST Council slashes tax rate on fertilisers to 5% from 12% and tractor components from 28% to 18%
Goa abolishes entry fee for vehicles from midnight
The Goa government is set to discontinue, from Friday midnight, the entry fee that was being charged by the State Public Works Department at the Goa entry check posts as the GST comes into force from Saturday. The department was earlier collecting Rs 200 from four-wheelers and Rs 400 for commercial vehicles.
Parties should rise above partisan politics, says Jaitley
Reacting to Rahul Gandhi's criticism of the GST implementation as a 'self-promotional spectacle', Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley rejected the Opposition's charge, saying they should focus on mainstream rather than latching on to “fringe” issues. “Parties should rise above partisan politics. The Congress party had the opportunity to rise to the occasion. Karvan toh chalta rahega [Caravan will keep moving]. Those who won’t take part, would not stop it,” Jaitley said at the Aaj Tak GST Conclave.
Cinema blackout in Tamil Nadu
Cinema shows in Tamil Nadu to be cancelled from Monday to protest against GST rollout. Levy of Local Body Tax of 30% in addition to 28% GST is the issue, reports The Hindu .
Kerala opposition protests
The Congress-led UDF opposition has decided to boycott the government function to be held at Kochi tomorrow to protest against not discussing and passing the state GST bill in the assembly, reports PTI. “The protest is against the implementation of the law through an ordinance instead of discussing the same in the state assembly,” Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala said in Thiruvananthapuram today. The Kerala government issued an ordinance earlier this month to ratify the State Goods and Services Tax (SGST) Act in order to enable the rollout of the new indirect tax regime in the State from July 1.
Strike in Kashmir tomorrow
The Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) have called for a general strike in the Valley on Saturday. “We are against this new law in which they talk about one India, one tax. We will not allow the implementation of this new law, even if we have to sacrifice our lives. We will not allow the erosion of our special status. We are giving a call for Kashmir bandh tomorrow,” KTMF president Muhammad Yasin Khan said in Srinagar. The business community in the Valley is ready to face any losses on account of non-implementation of the GST, he said.
The KTMF would hold a sit-in at city centre in Lal Chowk. The Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly will meet for a special session on Monday to discuss the issue of implementing the GST in the state, reports PTI.
Minister seeks to allay industry concerns
Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman sought to allay industry concerns over the anti-profiteering clause in the GST law. She says there is nothing to fear if benefits of reduced tax rates are passed on duly to consumers. In order to ensure that businesses pass on the benefits of tax rate reduction under the new indirect tax regime, the Central GST Act provides for an anti-profiteering section.
As per the rules, a five-member National Anti-Profiteering Authority will be set up and it will have the powers to order reduction in price commensurate with the lowering of incidence of taxation under the new indirect tax regime. The proposed authority can cancel registration of any entity or business if it fails to pass on to consumers the benefit of lower taxes, sahe says.
“I would want to allay that fear [of industry]. Every concession or reduction in the rates, we want that to be passed on to the end consumers...This objective has to be served by those who are dealing with the matter and if you dealt with it, there is nothing to be worried about it,” she observes.
We will be very liberal, says Jaitley
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Friday held out the promise of a “very smooth” transition into the GST regime. He said the administration would be very liberal and not implemented “very strictly” in the first two months.
While acknowledging that there will be some minor problems when a massive change takes place, he said that things would smoothen out in the times to come. “I think the rollout will be very smooth, as smooth as possible. All systems are in place. When a massive change takes place, there is an element of uncertainty of the unknown and when there is unknown there is fear. The whole process will change. There will be some minor problems...I think that will be a matter of days,” he said.
It will end 'inspector raj': Gadkari
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Friday that the rollout of the much-awaited GST regime would end the ‘Inspector Raj’, weed out black money from the system and end corruption. “The implementation of the GST will hugely benefit the country’s economy by weeding out black money and introducing transparency,” he said.
Addressing a conclave, Mr. Gadkari said it would end red-tapism and bolster economic growth. The GST would increase the revenue of the State governments and the Centre, and as it had petrol and diesel included in it, the States would benefit tremendously. “Overall, the GST will benefit the economy. Flow of black money will be stifled. Seventeen taxes and 22 other cess will be abolished after the GST comes into effect,” he said.
Niti Aayog member Bibek Debroy said any suggestion that the GST would boost GDP growth by 1-1.5 per cent was “utter rubbish”. He termed it an “imperfect GST” following changes from the originally proposed “ideal” structure.
The noted economist, however, quickly added that he would not “contradict” Mr. Jaitley and Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia, when pointed out that they were maintaining a similar boost to the GDP from the GST regime. Mr. Debroy also said the number of countries with GST was not more than six or seven, even as some “rubbish” figures of about 140-160 countries having GST were floating around.
Niti Aayog is a government think tank mandated to advice on policy matters.
Siddaramaiah sees propaganda
Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said his party was not opposed to the GST but against its usage as a “propaganda tool.“ After Independence, only three mid-night events have been organised in the Parliament’s central hall, i.e. when India got freedom, to celebrate 25 years of independence and thirdly, to mark 50 years of independence — he questioned need for organising a similar event for the GST. ”...they are doing it for propaganda. We are not against the GST, but the way they are doing it,” he told reporters.
'Organised jewellery retailers will benefit'
Organised jewellery retails will get a boost in the GST regime, as business is likely to be weaned away from unorganised players, who accounted for three-fourths of the industry’s annual revenue, a CRISIL report said. The overall increase in the end price of jewellery was expected to be about one per cent, the report said.
Currently, the unorganised player’s annual revenue is estimated by CRISIL at Rs. 2.85 lakh crore. Besides the GST, other measures such as ban on cash purchases of more than Rs. 2 lakh per transaction, gold-on- loan and gold deposit schemes would also benefit the organised retailers, it added.
Traders protest in U.P.
Hours before the rollout of the GST, traders in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh’s business hub, squatted on rail track and stopped the Kanpur-Pratapgarh passenger train in a protest against India’s most sweeping tax reform.
Traders, led by ‘Akhil Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal’ leader Gyanendra Misra, protested at the Lucknow railway crossing here around 9.47 a.m. and stopped the local train. It was only when the GRP personnel rushed to the spot and removed the protesters from the track that the train could resume its journey, railway sources said.
Traders in Madhya Pradesh on Friday observed a shutdown against some provisions of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout. Markets across the state wore a deserted look. The supply of milk, vegetables and essential supplies were not affected by the strike.
Bhopal Chambers of Commerce President Lalit Jain said groceries, textile and pharmaceutical traders have supported the shutdown. Traders said they were not against the GST rollout per se but were opposed to seven provisions in it which, they fear, might put them into trouble. These include the three returns they will be expected to file every year under the new tax regime.
Most of the shops and retail establishments remained closed in Kolkata on Friday following a day’s strike called by the Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM) against the procedures and provisions of the GST. Many shops in Burrabazar, one of Asia’s biggest wholesale market, kept their shutters down, while the usual buzz was missing in the iconic New Market as retailers observed the trade strike.
“In a bid to protest against the procedures and provisions of the GST which will be effective from July 1, we are observing a one-day strike on Friday,” BUVM’s patron and Chairman of the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations Mahesh Singhania said.
A bandh call given by various trade unions against certain provisions in the GST evoked a mixed response in Rajasthan on Friday, Most of the traders participated in the strike. Trader association spokesperson Arun Agrawal said the traders were against the “excessive tax slabs” and “complex processes” under the GST regime.
Rahul calls it a self-promotional spectacle
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said, "The GST holds great potential but is being rushed through in a half-baked way with a self-promotional spectacle."
"Like demonetisation, the GST is being executed by an incompetent and insensitive government without institutional readiness. India deserves a GST rollout that does not put crores of its citizens, small businesses and traders through tremendous anxiety," he added.
Will stick to stand: Anand Sharma
There is no possibility of the Congress reconsidering its decision to boycott the special midnight meeting to launch the GST, senior party leader Anand Sharma said on Friday. “This is not a minor issue that the government will request and just few hours before the event a major Opposition party will amend its decision. Keeping in mind Parliament’s decorum and country’s tradition, we have decided not to participate in the celebration,” Mr. Sharma told reporters.
There have been big achievements and also problems in the past but the government had never called a midnight Parliament session, he said.
Owaisi sees chaos
All India Majlis-e-ititehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi said, the implementation of the GST regime would lead to “chaos” similar to what happened in the aftermath of demonetisation of high value notes last year. The Hyderabad Lok Sabha member said he was not sure how far the new taxation system would be be implemented in an “organised way".
Celebration amid scare: AAP
The Aam Aadmi Party termed the GST a ‘good idea’ with bad implementation. It said the high tax levies under the new regime will encourage tax evasion, increasing the size of grey market. Party leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said: “Traders are scared, the common man is scared and you [the Central government] want to celebrate“.
Mr. Sisodia said he did not like the government’s celebrating the launch of the GST. He refuted claims about the GST leading to economic independence, saying freedom was a different concept while this was merely a transition from one tax system to another. ''If reports about GST software not being tested aree true, its rollout need to be deferred; else businesses as well as the government will have to face serious consequences.''
Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu appealed to the Congress to join the GST launch and not to spoil the aura of this solemn occasion for “silly reasons“. He claimed that the Congress was objecting to the launch at the Central Hall of Parliament as it was not able to accept that Narendra Modi was elected as Prime Minister of India. He, however, asked the Congress to reconsider its decision to boycott the ceremony.
“This is a political decision taken by the Congress party and its friends for political reason. They alone will be able to explain the reason,” Mr. Naidu said at a conclave on GST when asked about the Congress's boycott.
Housing prices would come down after the GST rollout, Mr. Naidu said, while expressing confidence that the landmark tax regime, along with property law, would bring big relief to home buyers.
Mr. Naidu, the Minister for Urban Development and Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, said only fly-by-night operators and habitual tax evaders were opposing the GST. “GST plus Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Act (RERA) will definitely bring big relief to houseowners. There is no scope for evading anything in the GST. Input credit will also be transferred,” he said.
Odisha Finance Minister SB Behera will attend the GST launch.
“The GST will bring about comprehensive reform of the indirect tax regime in the country and a major financial reform to make India a single market,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had said while addressing legislators in a workshop on GST held ahead of the Odisha Assembly’s special session on May 18 to pass the Odisha Goods Services and Tax Bill.
( With inputs from our correspondents and news agencies )