India govt urged to pass GST proposal

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah (left) and Senior BJP Leader L. K. Advani (right) attend the BJP parliamentary committee meeting at the parliament building in New Delhi on July 22, 2015.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre), Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Amit Shah (left) and Senior BJP Leader L. K. Advani (right) attend the BJP parliamentary committee meeting at the parliament building in New Delhi on July 22, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI • Some of the country's top tycoons say they have had enough of parliamentary paralysis and they have signed an online petition demanding that MPs approve a major tax shake-up aimed at driving economic growth.

Around 20,000 people, including industry chiefs such as Godrej Group chairman Adi Godrej, Biocon's Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Bajaj Group chairman Rahul Bajaj, and Hero MotoCorp's Sunil Munjal, are reportedly among those who want a goods and services tax (GST) pushed through the Parliament.

"They should get together and pass this very beneficial reform for the country," Mr Adi Godrej told Network 18 yesterday, according to Reuters. "India could have five years of double-digit GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth if the GST is in place."

The petition, "Let Parliament Function", demands that both Houses be allowed to "function, debate and legislate" on proposals like the GST, which supporters say will add up to two percentage points to economic growth.

Indian businesses have lobbied for years for the new sales tax to replace a chaotic federal and state tax structure that inflates costs.

DO IT FOR INDIA

They should get together and pass this very beneficial reform for the country. India could have five years of double-digit GDP growth if the GST is in place.

MR ADI GODREJ, on the benefits of GST

The Parliament has been deadlocked since last month and when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley introduced the GST Bill in the Upper House on Tuesday, it was met with yowls of protest from the opposition Congress party. Seconds later, the Speaker adjourned the chamber, Reuters reported. Congress is demanding the resignation of senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders it accuses of graft before allowing Parliament to work.

The petition says legislation like the GST must not be stalled by the "perpetual disruptions" in Parliament but Congress leader Manish Tewari tweeted that India Inc wants Parliament to bow to their demands, according to NDTV.com. "Street demonstrations against the Chair of the Lower House are of unprecedented scale. The Lower House is without some opposition members. The Upper House is perpetually adjourned," the petition says, according to NDTV.

The government has already passed the Bill in the Lower House. It does not have a majority in the Upper House, where it needs two-thirds of votes to pass the amendment. That is only possible if most parties support it, or if Congress abstains.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set the new tax as the main goal of the summer sitting of Parliament, which ends today.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 13, 2015, with the headline 'India govt urged to pass GST proposal'. Print Edition | Subscribe