NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill will go a long way in helping states, support small entrepreneurs and also curb the menace of corruption.
Intervening during a debate on the GST bill in the Lok Sabha, the Prime Minister asserted that the new tax law will be an important step towards getting the country rid of “tax terrorism” and also make “consumers the king”.
“In our country there is a trend of kaccha bill-pucca bill (fake bills and original bills),” Prime Minister said, and asserted that the proposed uniform tax law will be technology based.
Henceforth business houses and entrepreneurs “will be forced” to insist only on pucca bill (original) bill which will “end corruption in the long run”.
He described GST as a “Great Step by Team India, Great Step towards Transformation and Great Step towards Transparency”.
Trying to answer various issues raised by members, including M. Veerappa Moily and Mallikarjun Kharge (both Congress), the Prime Minister said that the new law will benefit states, especially those which are considered backward.
“It will address the problem of imbalanced development,” he maintained.
The Rajya Sabha had on August 3 unanimously passed the Constitution amendment bill to pave the way for introduction of a pan-India Goods and Services Tax regime.
Prime Minister’s absence in the Rajya Sabha during last week’s debate fetched him strong criticism from opposition parties, including Congress.
For greater part of the day Modi on Monday sat through during the debate and was also present in the house after making his speech in the evening.
Explaining on how GST will contribute to end corruption, Modi said the new mechanism will also end leakage or pilferage in the entire supply chain.
Prime Minister said while the country often hears people and public leaders talk about corruption, there is also a need to ensure that the system is corrected.
Modi said he has always maintained that small businesses are the country’s strength and his government has worked hard to bring necessary changes in the GST law to ensure that “consumer and small businesses will gain tremendously”. Small business will feel more secure with this, he said.
He also said a big message of the GST law will be that “consumer will be the king”.
Prime Minister said the Goods and Services Tax Bill was “a very big and important step” towards getting the country rid of “tax terrorism”.
Earlier, Modi started his speech by paying tributes to freedom fighters on the eve of the anniversary of the Quit India movement.
“As we remember them (the freedom fighters), the two houses of parliament, the parliamentarians collectively are taking a very big and important step towards getting rid of tax terrorism,” Modi said, referring to the Quit India movement that was launched on August 9 in 1942.
Trying to dispel notions of a few opposition leaders that the BJP-led government would try to steal the limelight and take all the credit for passing the GST, he said “this should not be seen as a victory of any single party”.
“It is due to the victory of all political parties and victory of Indian democracy,” Modi said.
The Lok Sabha, which had already passed the GST Constitution Amendment Bill in May 2015, took it up on Monday again to approve the modifications made in it by the Rajya Sabha last week.
The government had moved six official amendments, including scrapping of 1 per cent additional tax.
Congress floor leader Mallikarjun Kharge earlier bluntly asked BJP leaders, including the Prime Minister, on why their party had opposed the GST Bill when the UPA was in power.
“We are getting all the blame, a perception has gone that we (Congress) stalled the GST. Actually it is you all (BJP) who opposed it,” Kharge said in the Lok Sabha while participating in the GST bill.
During his reply, Modi maintained that having seen the issues concerning GST as the Gujarat Chief Minister, now that he is Prime Minister “I find it easy today to address these problems”.
He said it is true, a trust deficit had come to stay between states and the Centre earlier. However, he said now good relation has developed as members rose above party affiliations in Parliament to talk about GST.
Modi also strongly countered Veerappa Moily’s contention that the NDA government had consulted only Rajya Sabha leaders on the uniform tax law and thereby reduced the Lok Sabha to a “junior partner”.
“Such description was uncalled for,” PM said and maintained that when his government began consultation on the GST, he had met both Congress president Sonia Gandhi, a member of Lok Sabha, and Manmohan Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP.
“One is a Lok Sabha MP and other is from Rajya Sabha. I treated both the house equally. Question of treating Lok Sabha as a junior house does not arise,” he said.
Modi said passing the GST bill would go a long way in creating a new tax mechanism.
He directed Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to ensure that 16 states ratify the bill at the earliest and also that adequate steps are taken to ensure early passage of the draft legislation on integrated GST, the central GST and the state GST.