SRINAGAR: Amid pandemonium and noisy scenes, Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister on Tuesday moved resolution in J&K Assembly on extension of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition members, however, opposed extension of GST in present form to the State saying it will erode Article 370.
The traders, who are opposing the extension of GST to the State, have called for Valley-wide shutdown tomorrow while moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar has extended full support to the traders.
The Assembly witnessed uproar and noisy scenes after the opposition members objected to gagging of media men, who were not allowed to bring mobiles, laptops and camera inside the Press Gallery of the Legislature.
The media men boycotted the initial proceedings to protest the media gag. However, later Speaker Kavinder Gupta allowed the media men to bring mobiles, laptops and camera inside the Press Gallery of the Legislature to cover the proceedings.
As the house met at 2.30 pm after two adjournments, the ruling and opposition members clashed verbally accusing one another of eroding the special status of the State. The opposition charged the ruling PDP and BJP of eroding Article 370 by implementing GST in the State in the present form.
J&K is the only state in the country not to implement the new tax regime, which has been rolled out on July 1.
Amidst charges and counter charges, senior PDP leader and Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu moved a resolution to facilitate implementation of GST in the State.
“This House resolves that the J&K government may be given consent to adopt the GST regime by application of relevant amendments made to the Constitution of India in a modified manner to safeguard the existing special constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir in the Union of India and the legislative powers under the Constitution of J&K,” read the resolution.
Drabu told members that it was is in the interest of J&K to shift to the new tax regime to protect the interests of the State and all stakeholders.
However, the opposition members opposed extension of GST in the State saying the State should bring its own law on the tax regime.
“The resolution is not clear about safeguards to the special status of the state,” opposition National Conference leader, Muhammad Shafi Uri said.
CPI (M) State Secretary and MLA Kulgam Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said resolution is vague and does not speak clearly about the safeguards.
Senior Congress leader Ringzin Jora said the government has in its agenda of alliance assured of maintaining special status of the state and the GST will test their AoA.
He said the government should not go for adopting GST in hurry and rather it must create conducive atmosphere and necessary infrastructure for its proper operation. He also suggested that the State should bring its own law to safeguard the J&K’s special status.
Another NC leader, Devinder Singh Rana said the government was trying to shatter the idea of India, which is incomplete without the holistic idea of J&K, which has a special position under the Indian constitution.
“We are on brink of history and posterity will judge us all on what we say today while we are here to safeguard the special status of J&K,” he said.
Rana said his party was not against GST but favours safeguarding the special status of J&K. “After application of 101 amendment of Indian constitution to J&K, all the taxation powers under the section 5 of the J&K government will be usurped”.
Senior PDP leader and Minister Imran Ansari intervened while Rana was giving his speech and asked him to stop “befooling people”.
“The NC leader has already obtained the GST No for businesses owned by him including Jamkash Vehicleades and Take one television registered in his wife’s name,” he said.
It led to heated argument between the two with Rana accusing Imran of indulging in tax fraud.
Imran retorted back saying, “I can lynch you here. I know all your shady businesses. How you brought cars. What was your occupation prior to joining politics?” Imran also accused senior NC leader and former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather of having obtained a GST number for his son’s business firm.
“You should do politics openly and not boast about moral high grounds,” he told the NC members, who took exception to his remarks and created unruly scenes.
The independent MLA Er Sheikh Abdur Rashid also clashed with PDP’s Javed Beig. The MLA also clashed with the marshal, who tried to evict him from the house on the orders of Speaker.
Earlier, in the day police foiled a joint protest by traders and civil society members outside J&K Assembly. The traders and civil society members were protesting against extension of GST in the State. About two dozen traders were detained.
Reacting to the police action, Jammu and Kashmir Coordination Committee (JKCC), an amalgam of traders organizations, has called for “Kashmir Bandh” tomorrow to protest highhandedness of police on traders and civil society members.
“We will continue to raise our genuine voice even if the government puts curbs on us. The highhandedness of police is unacceptable,” JKCC spokesman said.
He said the CC has called for Valley-wide shutdown tomorrow against police highhandedness.
Meanwhile, moderate separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has extended full support to programmes of to JKCC to oppose implementation of GST in the State.
“People of Kashmir will tooth and nail oppose all moves aimed at eroding the special status of J&K and in turn affecting the disputed nature of Kashmir. Unless the grave apprehensions and serious concerns raised by the JKCC on GST are addressed, any attempt to implement the law will be met with stiff resistance by the separatist leadership and people,” he added.