Exempt GST on COVID essentials, West Bengal urges FM Nirmala Sitharaman

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government on Tuesday urged Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman for exemption of GST and customs duty on essential drugs, vaccines and equipment required for the treatment of Covid-19.

In a letter to Sitharaman, state Finance Minister Amit Mitra also thanked her for convening the “much awaited” 43rd meeting of the GST Council on Friday.

“I propose that the Council in its wisdom, may agree to accept zero-rated tax for all Covid relevant materials, equipment, drugs and vaccines. This will allow manufacturers and their entire supply chain entrepreneurs to avail input tax credit. Therefore, there would be no adverse impact on prices for the consumers,” Mitra said in his letter.

He also told her that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on May 9 had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to waive all forms of taxes and customs duty on equipment and drugs being used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I firmly believe that the GST council can play a significant role in easing the pain of millions of our people. You would agree that, this is an extremely difficult time concerning the lives of millions of people and we need to go the extra mile for effectively managing the crisis caused by this pandemic. The third wave too cannot be ruled out,” Mitra’s letter read.

Mitra sounded hopeful that the Sitharaman, who heads the GST Council, might go beyond technicalities and bureaucratic approaches to rise to the occasion in addressing the current crisis when the entire country is looking up to the Council for relief.

The GST Council, which also comprises representatives of all states and union territories, is going to meet for the first time in nearly eight months on May 28.

“I look forward to fruitful deliberations and bold decisions in the ensuing GST Council meeting on Friday,” Mitra added.

He had on May 12 wrote to Sitharaman requesting her to convene a virtual meeting of the GST Council to discuss the “alarming” shortfall in terms of compensation to states.