By all indications, Mehbooba Govt. appears all set for lending its approval to adoption of 101st Indian constitutional amendment paving way for application of Goods & Services Tax Act (GST) to the whole state. The bycott by NC Govt. to the 2nd round of All party meeting is all a soap opera drama . With this application, the last post of fiscal autonomy of the State will be uprooted & demolished the same way, their peers & predecessors have been doing in the past.
GST has been billed as ‘One Country-One Nation –One Tax’. The Indian Govt. wants to assimilate all states under the umbrella of this tax. J&K State, which has some degree of sovereignty left in imposing & collecting indirect taxes, will loose such independence and get merged with the union pool of taxes.
It is true that non-application of GST will put our consumers, traders & manufacturers at a disadvantage. Once outside the GST regime, Traders from outside the state will be reluctant to sell us the goods & raw materials and our manufactures/traders may not be able to sell their produce outside for want of unavailability of input credit. Since ours is a 90% consuming state, the prices of goods usually imported from outside may also shoot up.
But there was and always is a clear way out. Our State legislature could pass a GST law similar on lines of central law with an enabling provision to enter into central GST regime with some additional safeguards to protect our informal sector. It could have taken care of our special status as well as apprehensions about price rise etc.
If one remembers, Union Finance Minster, Arun Jaitley at the conclusion of GST Council meeting in Srinagar, had pointed to the same thing when he said that J&K has every right to enact its own law in regard to GST. But once in Delhi, he has changed his mind, probably at the behest of RSS. He has now directed(emphasis added) Mehbooba Govt. to adopt the Indian constitutional amendment at the earliest and has cited Abdul Rahim Rather’s no-objection to such an arrangement when he was chairman of empowered committee to lay a road map for GST.
Now what is the way out from here? It is said that the best way to oppose a law is to refuse its compliance in such a way which pinches the law enforcers. Govt. of J&K has already started on-line registration of asseessees to get a registration Number which will allow them to enter the GST regime. This is inspite of the fact that there exists no law at the moment for J&K to govern such registration. One has not to visit any department or official to get such a number & the whole process is completed on computers.My suggestion is and that is totally in my personal capacity, for all such assessees is to obtain this on-line registration No. and enter the GST regime. This will take care of any price rise/input credit availability etc. Thereafter they should launch a civil disobedience programe which in the present context means that local assessee’s may collect input tax without depositing it with the Govt. till such time the Govt. concedes the demand of enacting its own GST law. Let security forces knock at our doors & shops for demanding the money so collected by us. It will be a novel form of our resistance as well. As Mahtama Gandhi once said “Civil disobedience is not only the natural right of a people, especially when they have no effective voice in their own Government, but that it is also a substitute for violence or armed rebellion”.
(The author is a practicing chartered Accountant. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)