GST Council meeting: Amit Mitra's video connectivity was poor, says Anurag Thakur on his 'voice muzzled' accusation
Union minister of state for finance Anurag Thakur on Saturday responded to West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra's accusation that he was not allowed to speak at the end of the GST Council meeting. Mitra claimed that when he tried to voice objections after Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced the GST Council's decision, his "voice was muzzled as the secretary brought the meeting to a close and the virtual link was cut off".
Mitra wrote a letter to Sitharaman in this regard. “I write this letter with great anguish. In your remarks near the end of today’s GST Council Meeting, you referred to several of my observations by name and yet I was not given the floor, despite a repeated request to your comments. Instead, you gave the floor to the minister from UP, who sought deletion of some of my comments by name and shockingly you agreed,” Mitra's letter read.
In response, Thakur said such an incident never happened and it was "unbecoming" of a senior leader like Mitra to claim that it did. "The Finance Minister has never stifled dissent in the GST Council. It is unbecoming of a senior member of the Council to suggest tht this has happened. The GST Council embodies the collective spirit of all states towards debate in a healthy manner; it has been & shall continue," Thakur posted on Twitter.
Thakur, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, said that in his experience as the minister of state in the last two years, he has not seen Sitharaman cut off anyone during the GST Council meeting. "She has patiently given each and every speaker as much time as they needed, even if it meant discussions went on for long hours," he said.
He also said that Mitra's connectivity during the meeting was not good. "During the GST Council discussions today(June 12),it seemed as if the Finance Minister frm West Bengal did not have a stable VC connection. Revenue Secy repeatedly informed him his line was breaking, that he was not properly audible & to turn off his video fr better connectivity," he tweeted.
"Further, during the speech made by the Uttar Pradesh Finance Minister, nobody heard Mitra speak up nor did he ask to have his opinion heard. Other members can attest to this," he said.
The minister also said that Mitra remained silent even after Sitharaman asked the GST Council whether anyone would like to speak and add their comments at the end of the meeting. "Mitra again remained silent and did not speak up. The Finance Minister has never stifled dissent in the GST Council. It is unbecoming of a senior member of the Council to suggest that this has happened. The GST Council embodies the collective spirit of all states towards debate in a healthy manner; it has been and shall continue," he said.
During the Saturday meeting, it was announced that the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM), set up to look into tax relief on Covid-19 medical supplies, have been accepted by the GST Council and the GST rate has been reduced from 12% earlier to 5% now on Covid-19 testing kits, medical-grade oxygen and ventilators.
For ambulances, the GST rate has been reduced from 28% to 12% and for hand sanitisers from 18% to 5%. These rates will be valid till September 30.