Several scientists have expressed displeasure with the Centre’s recent decision to increase Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates on scientific equipment. On July 18, the 47th GST Council meeting in Chandigarh approved changes to rates on a host of goods and services. Tucked in was a decision to do away with concessional GST rate of 5% applicable to scientific equipment and increasing it to “applicable rates” meaning anywhere between 12% and 18%.
This would mean a 6%-12% hit on research funds available to laboratories for their expenditure, said scientists.
“This would have a significant impact on our budget. Already our budgets have been slashed and this would be an additional blow. This has come as a surprise...and we hope the government will rethink this,” Satyajit Mayor, Director, National Centre for Biological Sciences, told The Hindu .
N. Raghuram, Professor, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, said: “This is bad, especially at a time when government funding for S&T has been falling over the years in real terms of purchasing power and money available for research beyond salaries is falling even more.”
“I request all funding agencies to request @PMOIndia to withdraw this ruling otherwise science will suffer... This ruling will affect us all,” tweeted Amit Tuli, scientist at the CSIR-Institute of Microbial Technology.
Amitabha Bandopadhya of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, tweeted that grants that were sanctioned to research groups would now be insufficient to procure equipment and consumables and therefore funding agencies should top up their fund releases by 13% to buffer the impact.
The Union Ministry of Science and Technology was earmarked Rs. 14,217 crore in the 2022-23 Union Budget — a drop of 3.9% from last year.
In April 2021, scientists from labs all over the country had signed a petition and written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, pointing out that the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” policy had made import of scientific equipment and reagents an “extremely tedious and time-consuming process” requiring approval at the level of the Secretaries of Ministries or departments.