New Delhi : India is set to witness the era of one nation, one tax when the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is rolled out on Friday midnight wrapping up 16 years of negotiations with 29 states amid intense lobbying by pressure groups that saw two regime changes at the Centre.
The biggest tax reforms since independence will be officially launched by President Pranab Mukherjee, who as a finance minister had laid down the basic structure of GST in 2009. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take the centre stage as the key speaker at the event.
The GST not only seeks to bring a plethora of indirect taxes and local levies such as excise VAT, octroi into one umbrella but it also unifies the rates of taxes at Central and state level. It will make India a far more easier place to do business besides giving a leg up to the economy, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has been saying but his officials swear will also reduce tax evasion.
Heralding the birth of the new tax regime will be a small ceremony in the Central Hall of Parliament with the screening of two small films on the subject. But the main Opposition Congress will give it a miss. Though the party says GST is its brainchild, it is being implemented in a haste.
According to the original plan of the government, two former prime ministers H D Deve Gowda and Manmohan Singh were to share the dais with the President and the incumbent Prime Minister. Gowda has consented to grace the occasion.
As of now Vice President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, all finance ministers of states, all Lok Sabha and Rajya Members and members of Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers since GST was conceptualised in 2000 will attend the event.
A rehearsal of the event has already taken place in the Central Hall in presence of senior finance ministry officials. Media persons have issued a special one day pass for the entry into Central Hall that is open only for journalists of 20 years or more experience in covering Parliament.
Since the entire system of paying the levies under GST is e-based, it will also expect to check tax evasion, GST Network Chairman Navin Kumar told DH. GSTN is considered to be the backbone of entire IT structure of GST.
Traders have some concerns still left unaddressed. They claim GST will be unsustainable small businesses most of whom are not well versed in technology. The GSTN head had refuted the claim saying it is 'fear of the unknown' that has gripped traders.
The common man is waiting as the government has assured most of the food items will become cheaper from July one after the implementation starts. Services will, however, become expensive like banking, insurance, telecom and even tuition fee for children. Small cars will be expensive but luxury cars will be cheaper.
Beside Congress, Mamata Banerjee's TMC and Left parties are also skipping the event but Jaitley has appealed to them to "reconsider" their decision. Barring Jammu and Kashmir, all states have approved the GST. Kerala and West Bengal have taken the ordinance route to approved GST law.
Cinestar Amitabh Bachchan and pioneer industrialist Ratan Tata have also been invited to the event.