What began in March 1986 as an effort to reform indirect taxation is all set to finally reach its fruition on July 1 in the form of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Initiated by the UPA Finance Ministry in 2009, GST is touted to be the biggest change in tax regime since Independence and purportedly one of the biggest successes of the current NDA government. The GST is an indirect tax that would replace all central and state taxes with a single tax. Having undergone fierce debates in the past decade, the passage of the GST Bill is being celebrated in a grand manner by the BJP and as part of honouring the change, the bill would be rolled out at a midnight joint parliamentary session on June 30.
What is the significance of a midnight joint parliamentary session?
A midnight joint parliamentary session is celebratory in nature and the only other two times that the event took place was on occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Quit India movement in 1992 and then to mark the 50th anniversary of Independence Day. This is the first time that a joint parliamentary session at midnight would not be commemorating a historic event of the past, but rather welcoming an economic change for the country’s future. The BJP-led government’s decision to roll out the GST at a joint session has come under attack from the opposition which believes it to be nothing but an opportunity for event management. D Raja from the CPI claimed the decision to hold a joint session at midnight is nothing but ‘drama.’
What all is expected to take place in the session?
As per the schedule, the change over to the new tax system is expected to take place exactly at midnight. It might be worth noting the historic importance of the time of the day at which the GST will be launched, considering that the country achieved independence also at midnight. The session is expected to last for an hour and would be addressed by president Pranab Mukherjee and prime minister Narendra Modi. The launch would be done through a laptop and two short films on GST would be screened as well.
Who all are expected to attend the session?
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar wrote an invitation letter dated June 19 to all members of Parliament in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. While 600 people including ministers and GST officials are expected at the event, there is much controversy on who all from the opposition would be gracing the occasion.
Former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda is expected to be at the session and would be on the podium at the time of the launch as told by finance minister Arun Jaitley. Apart from the president and the prime minister, Vice-President Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan is also expected to be present at the event.
The Congress has been contemplating on the matter since the party members have in recent times been vocal about their criticism regarding the way in which GST is being implemented. However, backing out from the session is also a dilemma since the tax structure was a brain child of the party.
Mamata Banerjee on the other hand made a public declaration that he party would not be a part of the session since she was concerned about the ‘hurried’ nature of GST implementation.