Jaitley moves GST amendments in Lok Sabha

After two days break, Parliament met on Monday. The Rajya Sabha began its proceedings with several members raising the issue of Kashmir under curfew for about a month. They urged a debate on the issue.

The Lok Sabha took up the crucial GST amendments on Monday. The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha on May 6, 2015 and transmitted to Rajya Sabha for concurrence. Rajya Sabha passed the Bill with amendments at its sitting held on the August 3, 2016 and returned it to Lok Sabha.

Considering that the ruling party has enough numbers and now that Congress is also on board, the Bill will be passed. All eyes are on the Prime Minister now. Will he participate in the debate?

Live updates:

4.20 pm: Tariq Anwar, Congress MP from Katihar: The GST Bill was stuck in the Rajya Sabha for a long time. If the BJP believed that the GST Bill is important for the country, why was the Bill stalled in the RS when the BJP was in the Opposition?

4.15 pm: Meanwhile, in the Rajya Sabha, DMK MP Kanimozhi raises questions about the Mental Health Care Bill: “India spends just 0.6% of its budget on mental healthcare. How does Ministry intend to implement the Bill?”

4.10 pm: Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy, YSR Congress MP from Nellore: Gross tax collection should end up being the same as the collection before GST implementation. In that case, how will the consumer end up paying less tax? We must ensure GST will be hassle free and free of human interference. That alone will help the ease of doing business.

I would like to remind the finance minister about special status for Andhra Pradesh. Central government has to immediately implement Special Status for A.P. It is my earnest request.

4.05 pm: Hukum Singh, currently in the chair, asks Karunakaran to wind up. “We are supporting the Bill but you’re not permitting us to speak. How are we to support the Bill otherwise?,” asks Karunakaran.

4 pm: CPI MP from Kasargod, Kerala, P. Karunakaran: When we discuss GST, we discuss the indirect tax that burdens the poor much more. The indirect taxes are about 62.3%, while direct taxes are 37.7%. You are managing and financing your projects through indirect taxes alone. Your government is enriching the rich and impoverishing the poor. I’m not saying there should be a cap, but indirect taxes should be reduced for the good of the people.

3:45 pm: A. P. Jithender Reddy, TRS MP from Mahbubnagar, Telangana: The amendments are most welcome. But we need to keep taxation low, but also protect the existing revenues of the Centre and State govt. Cumulative tax is about 30%, but tax evasion is marginally high. The more you lower your tax rate, the more your GDP will grow, as the number of people who don’t pay tax will lessen. With the GST, Telangana might lose nearly Rs. 500 crores from Tobacco products, as this money will be subsumed by the Centre.

3:30 pm: Tathagatha Satpathy of BJD says he supports the Bill. “Why not a system of evolving tax system where states collect taxes and pass it on to the Centre, asks Mr. Satpathy. When you are labelling a state consumer state, companies will not set up in these states. How can these states improve? Producer states like Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu will be losing revenue. How can they reinvest in infrastructure? We support the GST in-principle. But we have moved amendments too. I hope the government considers it, he says.

3:05 pm: Kalyan Banerjee of Trinamool Congress says his party supports the Bill. He wants the House to ensure that States’ revenues are not adversely affected. Clarify what is meant by full compensation? he asks. He also seeks exemption from dual GST of MSME. The Prime Minister should acknowledge in this House that it is because of the support of State Chief Ministers and State Finance Ministers the BIll is being passed in this House. He ends the speech asking a special package for Bengal!

3:00 pm: Dr. P. Venugopal of AIADMK speaks against the Bill. AIADMK is probably the only party to oppose the Bill. He says petroleum products should be kept out of the purview of the GST. He says the Bill disrupts the federal structure by giving Centre an upper hand. Manufacturing states will be affected. The Bill needs further amendments to protect the financial interests of the State.

2:50 pm: Rajya Sabha reconvenes. The House discusses Mental Health Care Bill. Vikas Mahatme, BJP MP and a renowned eye specialist speaks in favour of the Bill. The Bill will give mental health caregivers and counsellors respect. He says at least seven per cent of the population suffers from mental illness. The Bill will increase the number of quality psychiatrists and mental health counsellors.

2:52 pm: So how does Lok Sabha allot time for each Speaker? In simple terms, the members should give notice expressing their willingness to participate in the debate. The Speaker allots time based on the party strength. So if a member belonging to X party with a strength 100 in Lok Sabha, he gets 10 minutes. Then the member belonging to party Y with strength of 50 MPs will get 5 minutes. The Minister who moves the Bill can, however, speak as long as he wants.

2:45 pm: He quotes Mahabharata and says the King should collect taxes like how bee collects honey from flowers, without harming both bee and flower. With that Mr. Moily ends his speech. The Speaker alloted three Congress MPs to speak. But Mr. Moily spoke on behalf of the other two too.

2:40 pm: The ideal tax would be one tax for the nation. But this GST is having 38 taxes. How will you call it One Nation, One Tax? Mr. Moily asks. There should be a monitoring cell. Safeguard from inflation and corruption should be made. Next Bill should be a Finance Bill, not a Money Bill, he says.

2:30 pm: Mr. Moily refers to Parthasarathy Shome report and asks the govt to follow the report’s recommendations. The consumers, the common people, will be the losers if there is competitive profiteering attitude, he warns. Collect what you are collecting now. If you are planning to collect more that will be a disgrace to the country, he says. He insists that the rate should be capped at 18 per cent. This cap was prescribed by the CEA report.

2:21 pm: He takes a dig at ruling party for holding deliberation with Upper House members. You didn’t take us (Lok Sabha MPs) into confidence because you have the numbers, says Mr. Moily.

2:20 pm: Veerappa Moily of Congress speaks. He credits economic reforms to Manmohan Singh and Narsimha Rao. It was in 1991 the then Congress government opened up the markets and kickstarted liberalisation in the nation.

2:15 pm: After this amendment, we have to prepare three more laws. Two will be passed by Houses and one by respective States. Functional modalities and rate of taxation will be decided by the GST Council. States and Centre are not giving up the soverignity but we are pooling in the sovernity to enable one nation, one tax, says Mr. Jaitley.

2:00 pm: Lok Sabha reconvenes. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moves GST amendments. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also present. He acknowledges the role of Rajya Sabha and various States

1:00 pm: Both Houses adjourned till 2 pm

12:26 pm: Rammohan Naidu Kinjarapu, Srikakulam MP, says the package given to Andhra Pradesh is too meagre. He claims only Rs. 50 crore has been allotted per district. He goes on to say the State was ‘unscientifically’ divided.

12:20 pm: Kirit Solanki urges government to establish a centre for “cotton excellence” so that farmers can rely on it for quality control.

12:15 pm: AIADMK MP V Ezhumalai raises the issue of Tamils being arrested by Andhra Pradesh suspecting them to be woodcutters smuggling red sanders. We are a free nation. We can travel anywhere. How can they pick up 32 people just because they were travelling to Andhra, he questions in Tamil.

12:10 pm: The CRPF camps lifted from Kokrajhar has emboldened Bodo militants to carry out violence. The BJP government should not have done it, says Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi.

12:09 pm: Naba Kumar Sarnia, Independent MP from Kokrajhar, speaks on the recent militant attack. He talks in Assamese.

12:06 pm: Andhra Pradesh MPs raise slogans seeking special status to Andhra Pradesh.

12:00 noon: Home Minister Rajnath Singh makes a statement in Lok Sabha on the Kokrajhar attack.

11:44 am: Mr. Kurien says it’s is a genuine concern. He asks Mr. Bajwa to share details with the government and Mr. Naqvi to take it up with the MEA.

11:42 am: Mr. Naqvi says Sushma Swaraj has been in touch with those govts. If the Honourable Member has a specific case, I urge him to give details. We’ll look into it.

11:40 am: P.S. Bajwa raises the issue of Indians kidnapped in Libya by Islamic State. Forty workers were kidnapped two years back. There are no whereabouts about them. One boy from Punjab came back and said all were killed, but MEA Sushma Swaraj said they are all alive. A girl doesn’t know whether her husband is alive or not. Parents want to know if their children are alive or not. PM has travelled several nations. He should visit Libya and Iraq too, says Mr. Bajwa.

11:30 am: Subramanian Swamy talks about building Ram temple in Ayodhya. The matter should be settled through the court. A day-to-day hearing should take place. “This matter should be discussed here so that harmony can be established in the country,” says Swamy.

11:29 am Santiuse Kujur, an Assam MP takes up the Kokrajhar killing. More MPs associate with him. The state government has neglected intelligence inputs, says Ripun Vora.

11:28 am: Pramod Tiwari of Congress points out at a report from Rajasthan, where cows in a gaushala was allegedly allowed to die. He criticises government for indulging in politics over protection of cows.

11:26 am: Mr. Sharma says to commemorate renowned poet Kabir, the government will slot a day in the calender for the national celebration of his birth anniversary. He says the government is also discussing whether to produce a coin with Kabir’s portrait engraved on it.

11:25 am: In Lok Sabha, question hour begins. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma responds to questions.

11:20 am: Govt should stop using pellets, stop midnight knocks on houses, withdraw AFSPA from civilian areas and government should convene an all-party meet, says CPI’s D. Raja.

11:15 am: Many members want to discuss Kashmir, why not have a discussion tomorrow, asks Mr. Kurien. Since the concerned minister is not in the House, Mr. Naqvi says government is ready for discussion, but not today. The Chair asks him to come back with a date.

11:12 am: Sitaram Yechury asks what is happening? Thirty days in curfew. I haven’t seen such a thing in Independent India. The Home Minister assured the House that pellet guns will not be used. But it is still being used. Even Israel dosn’t use pellet guns against Palestinians. But India is using against Kashmiris, says Sitaram Yechury.

11:07 am: Mr. Azad says it’s been 30 days since normalcy has been disrupted in Kashmir. He says the issue is not mere law and order issue. It is a political, regional and national issue. He reiterates the Prime Minister should speak up. He urges the government to convene an all party meeting and send an all-party delegation to Kashmir.

11:04 am: Ghulam Nabi Azad sought debate on situation in Kashmir. His notice to suspend Question Hour was rejected. But P.J. Kurien allows Mr. Azad to speak on the issue in Zero Hour.

11:03 am: Ministers lay on table reports pertaining to their ministry.

11:00 am: Rajya Sabha proceedings begin.