‘Won’t pay tax, if it is not rolled back’
SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee (JKCC), a grouping of trade organisations and civil society groups, said on Monday that it will take to the route of civil disobedience if the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not rolled back by the state government.
“If the state has means to exercise its power, we, too, have means. We will not pay any tax to the government if it is not rolled back,” said Shakeel Qalander, a member of the JKCC during a seminar, ‘Surrender of Fiscal Autonomy and Compromise on Sovereignty Through GST’. The seminar was held at Rajouri Kadal in the heart of downtown Srinagar.
“We are not asking the government to give us incentives that we used to get in the previous tax regime. We want the restoration of the state’s financial autonomy. We know we will get the incentives anyway. But the erosion of the state’s autonomy we won’t accept,” Qalander said.
The PDP-BJP coalition government extended the GST to the state in the first week of July, nearly a week after it was implemented across India. Since then, there has been a ranging protest against the tax by traders and opposition political parties.
At today’s seminar, the JKCC laid out a road map for the restoration of the state’s financial autonomy. According to its handout, the state government should declare the state as a free economic zone, a move that will bring back all the lost powers of the state.
Former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Mubeen Shah, made this suggestion but did not say how a free economic zone would bring back the lost financial powers back of the state.
The government has already made it clear that such a proposal is not workable. On the floor of the Legislative Assembly during the special session held for the passage of the GST bill, finance minister Haseeb Drabu said that “nowhere in the annals of history has any state dictated to the central government regarding any legislation.”
President of Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation, Yaseen Khan, said at the seminar that the state government has never stuck to its promises on the GST.
Former Economic Adviser to the JK government, Professor Nisar Ali, said at the seminar that the increase in revenue expected by the government won’t come about because the formula used to calculate it is based on uncertain conditions.
“According to the report made by the state government, Rs 1,680 crore additional revenue will be added each year because of the GST. But these figures are based on if and buts. What if the economy does not follow the same path as envisaged by the government? The fact is that the government does not know what the GST will do,” he said.
Ali said that during his tenure as adviser to the government, the state was mulling to levy taxes on services but traders opposed it. “The case is now sub judice,” he said of that plan.