Hyderabad: At midnight on Friday, India will introduce nationwide goods and services tax with Prime Minister Narendra Modi taking centre stage in Parliament for what will be the country’s biggest tax reform in the 70 years since Independence from British colonial rule.
The GST will replace about 20 Central and state taxes such as excise duty, service and local VAT while unifying $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market. The preliminary work on GST had begun during the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led government in 2000 and the UPA governments piloted the bill later on.
The launch event in the historic Central Hall of Parliament will start at 11 pm on June 30 and extend into the midnight, coinciding with the rollout of the GST, official sources said.
Reminiscent of India’s tryst with destiny on the midnight of August 15, 1947, the event will be graced by President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The last midnight event at the Central Hall was held in 1997 on the occasion of golden jubilee of the Independence. Mr Modi will use the occasion to make a landmark speech. Somewhat predictably, not everyone in the world’s largest democracy is happy.
Thousands of textile mills and retailers across the country went on strike this week to protest the tax. Small businesses in particular are unhappy at the extra demands made of them to be tax compliant during the change-over. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has given firms two months leeway to file late returns during the switch to GST and asked them to educate others about the positive impact of the GST.