BHUBANESWAR: Criticising the State Government for hike in the rate of value-added tax (VAT) on essential commodities soon after results of panchayat polls were announced, the Opposition Congress on Saturday demanded its immediate rollback. People of the State were taken for a ride by the Government which gave many assurances during the panchayat poll campaign, but ditched them soon after, Leader of the Opposition Bhupinder Singh said before leading a walkout in the Assembly against the VAT rate hike.
The Opposition also raised the issue of leak of tax proposals in the budget after the Cabinet meeting on February 21 and demanded resignation of Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei over the issue. The issue cropped up during discussion on the admissibility of an adjournment motion notice brought by the Congress members.
Alleging that the State Government is protecting the interests of industrial houses and companies instead of the common man, Prasad Harichandan (Cong) said while the rate of VAT was hiked, at the same Cabinet meeting decisions were taken to write off electricity duty of `14 crore on captive generators of power (CGPs) and cess on Orissa Tree Plantation Limited (OTPL).
Referring to the budget speech in which the Finance Minister said that VAT rate was hiked on the recommendations of the Sanjeeb Hota Committee, Harichandan said the panel’s suggestions to increase water rate on industrial houses and bring all the mines under the Odisha Mining Corporation and sell minerals on market rate were not implemented.
Influenced by the liquor lobby, it seems that the State Government has decided not to auction Indian Made Foreign Liquor and country liquor shops indicating that licences for the shops will be renewed, he said.
Stating that the Government is always trying to shift the blame towards the Centre, Naba Kishore Das (Cong) wanted to know what was the need for raising VAT rate when the budget showed a revenue surplus of `2,410 crore. Dubbing the Government as anti-poor, Das alleged that the decision was taken to please traders who had funded the BJD during panchayat polls.
Defending the State Government’s decision, Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei said all States, except West Bengal and Kerala, have already raised the minimum slab of VAT to 5 per cent. The State Government has decided to raise the rate of VAT from April 1, 2012 as per the direction of the Centre, which wanted uniformity in taxation, he said. The State Government was compelled to revise VAT rate after the Centre refused to pay compensation for reduction of rate of Central Sales Tax (CST) in 2011, he said, adding that the issue was also discussed at empowered committee of the finance ministers of the States. The Finance Minister maintained that nobody from the Government side leaked the budget proposals.