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New Delhi, August 26, 2020
Noting that the Finance Secretary had reportedly stated that the Central Government is not in a position to pay the mandatory Goods & Service Tax (GST) compensation of 14 per cent to the States for the current year, Congress President Sonia Gandhi said this refusal was nothing short of a betrayal.
"This refusal to compensate the States is nothing short of a betrayal by the Modi Government and a betrayal of trust of the people of India," Gandhi told a meeting of the Chief Ministers of seven Opposition-ruled States, including the four Congress-ruled States.
"On the other hand, Central Government continues to profiteer from unilateral Cesses which are non-shareable with States and corner this revenue," she said.
Gandhi began by saying that there were a number of very important and pressing issues that impinge on Centre-State relations. Parliament is expected to meet in less than three weeks and the interaction was organised so that they could have a coordinated approach.
"GST compensation being paid to states on time according to the laws passed by Parliament is crucial and I know this is not happening. Dues have accumulated. The finances of all states have been affected badly.
"GST was enacted as an example of 'cooperative federalism'. The GST regime came into existence because the States agreed to forgo their constitutional powers of taxation in the larger national interest and on the solemn promise of compulsory GST compensation for a period of 5 years.
"In the meeting of Standing Committee on Finance dated 11/08/2020, the Finance Secretary, Government of India, has reportedly stated that Central Government is not in a position to pay the mandatory GST compensation of 14% for the current year," she said.
Gandhi said ordinances had been issued without consulting states on agricultural marketing. "The Punjab chief minister has already highlighted how these will destroy the MSP regime and adversely impact on the PDS as well," she said.
She also noted that there had been been a nation-wide outcry against the Draft EIA Notification 2020 which, she said, was "deeply anti-democratic".
"Laws meant to protect the environment, livelihoods and public health are being weakened. The auction of coal mines too, I am aware, has been objected to by some Chief Ministers.
"Public sector assets created over decades are being sold off. Here too, as you are all aware, some state governments have expressed their strong opposition. Six airports have already been given to private hands. The Railways are the life-line of the country and they are being privatised too.
"There are other announcements like the National Education Policy that should worry us. This is a setback for progressive, secular and scientific values and reveals insensitivity to what the states have been saying. Problems of students and examinations are being dealt with very uncaringly," she added.
The meeting was attended by Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Uddhav Thackeray of Maharashtra, Amarinder Singh of Punjab, Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh, Hemant Soren of Jharkhand and V Narayanasamy of Puducherry.
Speaking in the meeting, Banerjee said, "The government has already announced NEET and JEE exams but how the students will appear for the examinations I don't know."
She said that in the month of April, the UGC had sent a letter stating that it will defer these examinations and will go for some other options.
"And now the JEE and the NEET examinations are to be held as per the schedule. I do not know how the students will sit in the exams. I can understand that the government will say that the Supreme Court has given the verdict and that's why the government is doing these things," she said.
The West Bengal Chief Minister said that she has written to the Prime Minister over the NEET and JEE exams.
"The government can appeal to the apex court to review its decision so that the students' community can feel that it is not harassed," she said.
The meeting of the opposition leaders came a day ahead of the GST Council Meeting.