Two-day Goods and Services Tax (GST) council meet begins in Srinagar today; chaired by Arun Jaitley
Srinagar: The powerful Goods and Services Tax or GST Council is meeting in Srinagar today to finalise tax rates for different commodities and services ahead of the launch of the mega tax reform on July 1. The choice of venue for the two-day meeting, the council's last before the tax is rolled out, is seen as a political message from the BJP, which partners Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party (PDP) in Jammu and Kashmir. It comes amid an escalation of violence and protests in the Kashmir Valley and the government wants to signal that it has the situation under control and that the state is safe for investors.
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Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who heads the GST Council, and finance ministers and officials from 32 states are attending the meeting, being held at Srinagar's Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre, which has been ringed with several layers of security.
The GST subsumes a slew of indirect taxes across the country into one unified tax and the council will at this meeting finalise the fitment of each good or service in the four tax rate slabs - 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% - agreed upon.
It is also expected to finalise a list of exemptions and rules for the new tax regime.
The Jammu and Kashmir government will later call a special session of the state assembly to pass a GST-related bill that paves the way for its implementation. Uttar Pradesh and several other states have already passed such bills at special assembly sessions.
The Mehbooba Mufti government is keen to signal the preparedness of the state to be part of the emerging national narrative on GST. The Jammu and Kashmir government has already moved on initiatives like a January-December financial year and a universal benefits policy.
The GST meeting comes a day after a massive search operation involving around a thousand security personnel was launched in Jammu and Kashmir's Shopian, about 50 km from state capital Srinagar, after reports of terrorists hiding in a village.
Arun Jaitley is also the country's Defence Minister and it is his first visit to the state since taking additional charge of that crucial department after Manohar Parrikar resigned to head back as Goa chief minister.
The minister arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday and also met meet Army Chief General Bipin Rawat to review security amid heightened tension with Pakistan on the Line of Control and the unrest in the Valley, where students have been holding massive protests targeting security forces.
After the GST rollout, Entry level cars and two wheelers, paint and cement, electrical items and consumer durables are expected to get cheaper. Also movie tickets with entertainment tax expected to come down.
Cigarettes, branded jewellery and other high-end goods, rail, bus and flight tickets and mobile phone calls are expected to be costlier in the GST regime. Service Tax could go up.