New Delhi The Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha on the Goods and Services Tax Bill has advised changes in provisions relating to compensation for states and on levy of one percent additional tax by states on the inter-state supply of goods.
The suggestions were made on Wednesday as the committee submitted its report to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament. The report, which by majority endorsed almost all the GST bill provisions is, however, marked by dissent notes from the Congress, AIADMK and Left parties.
According to the committee, the provision in the bill provides that the central government “may” compensate states for a period up to five years for any revenue loss. The report has suggested this be substituted with a commitment to compensate for five years.
In case of the provision for levying 1 percent additional tax by states to cover their losses due to abolition of local levies, owing to implementation of GST, the committee has suggested the levy should only apply to “all forms of supply made for a consideration”.
According to the bill, when goods move from one state to another, an additional one percent tax would be levied, but the opposition said it would lead to a cascading effect.
The committee, headed by BJP leader Bhupendra Yadav, however, retained the representation of the Centre and states in the GST Council at the proposed level at one-third and two-thirds, despite demands to reduce the centre’s representation to one-fourth.
“Administratively, we are taking all steps for both the Centre and states to meet the April 2016 deadline,” Revenue Secretary Shaktikanta Das told reporters here.
The union government has set the target to reform India’s indirect tax regime from April next year, and had earlier proposed 100 percent compensation to states for first three years.
The GST is seen as the key to facilitate industrial growth and improve the country’s business climate.
By subsuming most indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments, such as excise duty, service tax, VAT and sales tax, the new regime proposes to facilitate a common market across the country, leading to economies of scale and reducing inflation through an efficient supply chain.
The passage of the bill to become a law is a lengthy process.
Being a constitution amendment bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, it needs to be passed by the Rajya Sabha with a two-thirds majority and then be ratified by at least 15 state legislatures before being sent to the President for his assent.
If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.
More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.
For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.
If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.
It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.
Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.
For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.
It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.
Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.
However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.
For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.
What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.
To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.
To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.
If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)