Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led central government faced an Opposition onslaught as the revised Goods and Services Tax (GST) rates came into effect Monday, driving up the prices of several daily essentials including packed items like milk, curd and paneer, among others. The opening day of the Monsoon Session of Parliament witnessed a washout as the Opposition vehemently protested against the revised GST rates and price rise in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The revised rates were approved by the GST Council at a meeting held in Chandigarh last month. As per the revision, packed foods like flour, milk, curd and paneer and unpacked ones, including rice and wheat when packed, have been brought under the 5 per cent GST slab. Furthermore, solar water heaters, leather products and hotels charging Rs 1,000 or less per day now fall under the 12 per cent slab.
The Congress party, in an intense Twitter campaign, hit out at the Modi government with its trademark “Gabbar Singh Tax” jibe to corner the Centre on GST rates. “For PM Modi, climate change is as unreal as the suffering of the people of this country,” it said in one of its tweets using the hashtag “#GabbarSinghStrikesAgain.”
Reacting to the GST rate hike, AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “Highly disheartened to see that on one hand, the price rise is breaking the backs of citizens of India, and on the other hand, the Central government is raising GST rates for essential food items. I demand that they take back this decision.” Demanding a rollback, Kejriwal said, “I demand that the Centre should take back GST applied on materials of everyday use of basic food products, it is not right.”
While sharing a graph on how basic food items like rice, curd and honey are being taxed, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and said, “HIGH taxes, NO jobs BJP’s masterclass on how to destroy what was once one of the world’s fastest growing economies.”
Gandhi’s cousin and BJP MP Varun Gandhi, criticising his own party, tweeted in Hindi, “From today, GST is applicable on packaged products like milk, curd, butter, rice, pulses, bread. This decision, taken amid record-breaking unemployment, will further lighten the pockets of middle-class families and especially the struggling youth living in rented houses. When it was time to give ‘relief’, we are ‘hurting’.”
“If GST were to be levied on Jhumla, Jhoot and Fake News, India would’ve been a $10 Trillion Economy already,” said Telangana state minister KTR, using the hashtag ‘Jhumla Nirbhar Bharat’.
The Centre’s decision on GST rate revisions also triggered a wave of memes on social media targetting the central government.
Take a look at what the Congress and AAP tweeted:
While the prices of several items will rise as a result of the GST rate revision, a number of items are also set to become cheaper. The GST rate on renting of trucks, goods carriage will now fall under the 12 per cent bracket instead of 18 per cent GST. Similarly, ostomy appliances and transport of goods and passengers by ropeways, which fell under the 12 per cent slab earlier, will now attract 5 per cent GST. Also, electric vehicles, whether fitted with a battery pack or not, will now fall under the 5 per cent GST slab.