GST Launch 2017: President Pranab Mukherjee and PM Modi launched the GST reform.
New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi pressed a button in parliament's Central Hall at midnight to launch the Goods and Services Tax (GST), India's biggest tax reform ever. The unified tax system, said the President Mukherjee, is "the culmination of a 14-year journey." Speaking before him, PM Modi described GST as Good and Simple Tax, stating that it is not the achievement of any one party or government, but a shared legacy. The Congress and several other opposition parties boycotted the function.
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PM Modi said there could be no better place to launch GST than the historic Central Hall, "which has been witness to the midnight of August 14, 1947, when the country embraced Independence." It was a rejoinder to the Congress, which objected to a midnight session at the Central Hall being used to launch a reform, saying such sessions have previously celebrated Independence.
President Pranab Mukherjee, the last speaker before the launch, said it was a matter of personal satisfaction for him because of his role as Finance Minister earlier. He said the new law is a tribute to the "maturity and wisdom of the Indian democracy."
Welcoming the gathering, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described GST as the biggest and most ambitious tax reform and said the consensus among parties that has brought GST to launch is a high point in Indian politics at a time that the world is seeing slow growth and divisiveness. "It shows India can collectively think and act with maturity for broader purpose," the minister said.
Central Hall was specially decorated today and was fitted with new carpets and sound systems for the big night. Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda was seated at the high table with the PM and President, as were Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Vice President Hamid Ansari.
The Congress, Trinamool Congress, RJD, DMK and Left parties stayed away from the event. However leaders of other opposition parties like the Nationalist Congress Party and Samajwadi Party attended the function.
Hours before the launch, the powerful GST Council which has detailed the landmark reform, slashed the rate of fertilisers from 12 per cent to 5 per cent and of exclusive parts of tractors from 28 per cent to 18 per cent to reduce the burden on farmers.
GST replaces about 20 indirect taxes at both the centre and in states, while unifying the $2 trillion economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market.
Parliament's Central Hall has witnessed midnight sessions such as today's only on three occasions earlier. When first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru made his famous 'Tryst with Destiny' speech on Independence Day, on the occasion of the silver jubilee of Independence in 1972 and the golden jubilee in 1997.