After the announcement of the next meeting of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council to be held in Srinagar, the venue was abruptly changed to Chandigarh on Saturday. Security concerns following the recent targeted killings in Kashmir were reportedly one of the main concerns for rescheduling the venue of the meeting, which would have seen the attendance of officials and ministers from 31 states/union territories and of the Center.
On Thursday, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s office Twitter account announced the dates for the TPS Board meeting in Srinagar. “The 47th meeting of the GST Council will be held on June 28-29, 2022 (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Srinagar. @FinMinIndia @GST_Council @PIB_India,” he said.
On Saturday, the GST Council announced in a tweet that the meeting would now be held in Chandigarh instead of Srinagar. “The 47th meeting of the GST Council will be held on June 28-29, 2022 (Tuesday and Wednesday) in Chandigarh instead of Srinagar,” he said.
Although the revised official meeting notice did not specify any reason for the venue change, an official said there were concerns about the safety of ministers and officials converging in Srinagar for the meeting, given the recent wave of targeted assassinations. Questions sent to the Ministry of Finance on this subject by The Sunday Express did not elicit a response.
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The Kashmir valley has witnessed at least 16 targeted killings, including of police, teachers and sarpanches, since January. Episodes of targeted killings increased after February 2021, when the son of the owner of Krishna Dhaba in Srinagar was shot dead in his restaurant. On October 5, 2021, chemist M. L. Bindroo was killed in his shop, followed two days later by the murder of Supinder Kour, headmaster of Government Boys Higher Secondary School, Sangam, and Deepak Chand, a teacher at the school, who were shot after the assailants checked the identity cards of school staff. More recently, a Kashmiri Pandit employee of J&K’s Revenue Department, working under the Prime Minister’s Rehabilitation Scheme, was gunned down in his office in Chadoora, Budgam, prompting widespread protests from members of the community. A samba teacher, Rajni Bala, was recently the victim of this spate of killings, while an off-duty policeman was found dead in rice fields in Pulwama, South Kashmir, as recently as Saturday morning.
The 47th meeting of the GST Council comes at a time when some state governments are calling for the extension of the GST compensation scheme beyond June, when the five-year period of the guaranteed compensation scheme for lost income resulting from the deployment in July 2017 of the indirect tax system is coming to an end. The Council had previously agreed to extend the levy of the Compensation Levy until 2026, but only for the repayment of loans taken as a result of the pandemic to compensate states.
The council is also expected to discuss recommendations from a group of ministers led by Meghalaya’s chief minister, Conrad Sangma, who are expected to propose a 28% tax rate on casinos, racetracks and online gambling.
The Group of Ministers (GoM) formed to review the current tariff plate structure under the GST, will prepare an interim report and seek an extension of its mandate at the next meeting of the GST Council.
Discussions held so far on GST rates, reverse tariff structure for sectors except textiles, and certain exemptions will be part of the interim report, but consensus on a final report could not be achieved in the absence of full agreement among GoM members on fine-tuning the fiscal slabs.