After a 17-year roller-coaster ride , the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was launched in Parliament at the stroke of midnight, much like the solemn function which marked India's Independence.
Addressing a packed Central Hall of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself drew this parallel, underlying the historic nature of the tax reform which he dubbed the ‘Good and Simple Tax’.
It was the Central Hall, Modi said while addressing ministers, opposition leaders, MPs bureaucrats and select businessmen, where Jawaharlal Nehru and other national leaders had ushered in India’s Independence and where India had accepted its Constitution.
Modi also drew two other interesting parallels. One was between the number of chapters the Bhagwad Gita was divided into and the number of times the GST Council had met — 18. The other being the number of taxes before the implementation of GST and the number of self-governed provinces in India before they were brought under one government by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel — 500.
“Just like Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel united over 500 provinces into one India, there were 500 different types of taxes spread across 29 states and seven Union Territories that we are bringing into one tax regime…. The best brains in the country have been working to make GST a reality and today it has become an exemplar of cooperative federalism in the country,” Modi said. The GST is a not just an economic reform but a social reform, he added.
The NDA Government has claimed that GST will create a national market, enhance ease of doing business and improve tax compliance. While the Opposition, including Congress, the Left and the Trinamool Congress, who chose not to attend the event, has criticised the hurry with which Centre introduced GST. The Opposition called it a “blunder”.
With the proceedings coming to a close in Parliament, all eyes will now be on the implementation of what many have called the biggest tax reform in India’s history.