Civil Society Group, Kashmir Traders demands GST rollback, threatens state-wide agitation

Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee – an umbrella or trade bodies and civil society groups – on Wednesday warned of intensifying agitation across the state if the government didn’t roll back the GST law within a week’s time.

Besides GST rollout, the JKCC has demanded the withdrawal of presidential order on the tax law and declaring the Jammu and Kashmir as a “free economic zone (FEZ).

“In the event of Government not acceding to our demands, within a week’s time, the JKCC will be forced to continue its agitation and shall intensify it across the state at all levels till our demands are met,” said a statement, issued by the group.

Reiterating that the traders in the state were not against any tax reform, the group said that the GST law passed by the legislature “amounts to defiling the state constitution”.

“So when you (Govt) donate the power to Parliament of making law on goods and services, you are taking away the power of the state legislature. The power of the state is shrinking. It means sovereignty is shrinking, autonomy is shrinking. Now the question is, how have we protected the Section 5? When you say it is intact, how is it so after you have surrendered your power over goods and services to the Parliament? It is a cosmetic statement to mislead people,” the group, said in the statement.

The group rued that successive governments, over a period of seven decades, have acted as “collaborators to undermine this vital provision by affording concurrence to 46 amendments extended to the state in a deceitful manner.”

“By concurring to the 47th amendment, the present dispensation has not acted differently and has surrendered its powers of levying and collecting tax on goods and services to the union of India. The state has also been denuded of all powers to decide about grant of exemptions, reduction or increase of tax rates, fixing of procedures in the taxation matters as such powers have already been delegated to the GST council.”

JKCC said that they had expressed their misgivings and apprehensions on the compromise of fiscal autonomy of J&K State if the GST law was extended to it.

“Even before the press conference, the apex trade bodies had series of meetings with the state government authorities including the Chief Minister and the Finance Minister who not only agreed to desist from affording concurrence to the central law in any hasty manner but also facilitated them to have meetings with the Chairman Consultative Committee appointed for suggesting safeguards to the State Constitution and its special position,” said JKCC.

“The Chairman Consultative Committee while appreciating the apprehensions put forth by the trade bodies assured them of accommodating their genuine suggestions in safeguarding the state’s special position. At all these government levels, the trade organizations/associations were promised of rolling out a tax law that synchronized with the central GST law without eroding our special position besides that the draft of such a proposed GST law would have been shared with them for comments before its presentation in the Legislative assembly. However, to our dismay, this promise was not kept and instead a resolution was directly presented before the Legislative assembly on 3rd of July, 2017.”

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