DC Edit | Row over GST: Govt, Opp. must unite to find solution

The Opposition protests against the newly-introduced five per cent GST on certain food articles and also demands a discussion on price rise

Disruption of parliamentary proceedings for the third consecutive day on Wednesday by the Opposition over the rise in price of essential commodities and the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax on certain food items of mass consumption has little justification not because there is no merit in their arguments but because their modus operandi will defeat their own cause, and thereby, the people’s.

The Opposition protests against the newly-introduced five per cent GST on certain food articles and also demands a discussion on price rise. The GST Council, in its 47th meeting on July 29, had decided to impose GST on pre-packaged and labelled food products sold in containers up to 25 kg; and it became effective on July 18. While the government clarified on Sunday, the day before the new tax rates were to take effect, that the new rates will apply only to a certain category of food and not mass consumption items, the finance minister on Tuesday came out with the explanation that pulses, wheat, rice, flour and curd will not attract the new rate when sold loose, and not pre-packed or pre-labelled. The minister also explained that there are several states, including those ruled by the Opposition, which impose various taxes on food items and that bringing a segment of food products will help arrest rampant tax evasion. The government has also not missed the point that the group of ministers which decided on tax rates included those from Opposition-ruled states such as Rajasthan, West Bengal and Kerala.

The Opposition points to the fact that bringing essential food commodities in the tax net will result in a spurt in inflation which will make the lives of a large section of the population more miserable. The nation is facing an inflationary trend as per various indicators and indices of the government. The government should drop a move which will further accentuate the process, they aver.

There cannot be two ways on what the Opposition says on the trend in the consumer market; even the actions of the Reserve Bank of India to raise various benchmark rates are attempts to tame nothing but inflation. And it is the job of the Opposition to make the government accountable for its actions, especially if they hit the lives of ordinary people hard. They also want Parliament discuss the issue. The Lok Sabha Speaker has said he shall allow discussion on the Opposition topic and what remains are the formalities.

If it is solely for the optics of it, then the Opposition has scored but how far have they succeeded in making the government see reason? What has been happening in Parliament is that the government goes ahead with its legislative business unmindful of what the Opposition does. This affects the people in two ways; one, they lose a chance to get the government’s perspective on its actions and two, the Houses pass legislations without the contribution of the Opposition. Both are detrimental to the long term interests of democracy.

The Opposition and the government must come up with parliamentary practices which ensure debate and discussion and not just sloganeering. Issues such as price rise cannot be forgotten in the cacophony and chaos.

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