National Conference organized a one-day orientation session on the issue of GST at ‘Nawa-e-Subha’ in Srinagar today for party legislators and leaders. The orientation session was conducted by NC State Spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu and also addressed by NC Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani and Senior Leader and Former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather. The orientation program was also attended by Party District Presidents, Central Kashmir Block Presidents, Office Bearers of the Youth Wing and the Party’s Women’s Wing.
The orientation program contained legal, constitutional and historical information and delved into the factors and ramifications of the possible extension of GST to the State in its present form and highlighted how such a misadventure would dilute the State’s political and fiscal autonomy. The participants were provided data and papers containing legal, constitutional and historical information relevant to the issue.
Addressing the orientation program, NC Provincial President Nasir Aslam Wani said the Government’s stand on GST was still unknown and there were clear indications that the PDP-BJP Government had made up its mind to extend Constitutional Amendment 101 to the State through a Presidential Order. “Even in the All Party Meeting, the State Government failed to come up with its proposal to deal with this issue and had no answers to provide. Such deliberate irresponsibility is a ploy to extend the GST regime to the State in a hush-hush manner”, Nasir Aslam Wani said in his address.
In his address, Former Finance Minister and Senior Leader Mr. Mohammad Shafi Uri highlighted the political importance of opposing the extension of an Central Law to J&K and delved into the content and significance of the 1952 Delhi Agreement. “It is important to note that a dilution of our powers of taxation would be a death blow to the State’s Autonomy and would render the State more vulnerable to the extension of more central laws through presidential orders – something that hasn’t happened post 1977 owing to National Conference’s stoic and consistent policy of defending the State’s special status at all costs”, Uri added.
Giving a power-point presentation on GST, NC State Spokesperson Junaid Azim Mattu highlighted the difference between the GST regime and the existing tax structure and system in the State and said the State as of today draws the power to levy taxes from Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir as opposed to the Central Government and other States drawing this power from Article 246 of the Constitution of India.
“One of the key points – and this is something that had to protected at all costs by all stakeholders – is that the State of Jammu and Kashmir, owing to its Special Status, draws the power to levy taxes and make laws from Section 5 of the Constitution of Jammu and Kashmir. If GST regime is implemented in its present form via Constitutional Amendment 101 of the Constitution of India, the State will then – like all other States – derives this power from Article 246 of the Constitution of India – which is an enormous constitutional and political dis-empowerment of the State”, Mattu said.
The NC State Spokesperson also delved into the fact that, come GST in its present form, the Central Government would get to tax even intra-State sales of goods and services – something that the Central Government did not have the jurisdiction for till now. Ridiculing Finance Minister Dr. Haseeb Drabu’s remarks as factually incorrect and absurd, Mattu said if GST is implemented in its present form – the State Government would have no role in the State’s tax-policy and would be consequently completely dis-empowered in matters of economic policy as well in the long term.
“Dr. Haseeb Drabu should be reminded of his own write-ups and statements against GST where he vehemently and unequivocally opposed the extension of the GST regime to the State. As has become his petulant habit, Dr. Drabu often resorts to half-truths and lies to conceal his apologetic and disastrous tenure as the State’s Finance Minister. It is evident that Dr. Drabu – who called others Trojan Horses when he occupied his seemingly apolitical sermonizing pulpit – has surrendered his objectivity to the powers that be in Delhi and has become a GST Trojan Horse himself – which is utterly shameful”, Mattu said.
The orientation program also contained brief sketches and details of alternative solutions that would both protect the State’s economy and its traders and also safeguard its political and fiscal autonomy.