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Kerala: LDF Holds Statewide Rallies Against GST on Food Items

Neelambaran A |
The BJP government’s unilateral decision to impose 5% GST on food items, failure to control prices of essentials and usage of central agencies to intimidate LDF leaders were flayed.
A rally organised by the LDF in Kozhikode

A rally organised by the LDF in Kozhikode

The Left Democratic Front (LDF) held rallies and dharna across Kerala against the “regressive” actions and policies of the Union government. The unilateral decision to impose Goods and Services Tax (GST) on food items and the use of Central agencies against the leaders by the BJP-led Union government was flayed.

Despite the Union government’s decision, the LDF government has exempted 13 food items from GST sold through Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (SupplyCo). The State government has also refused to levy GST on food items sold by Kudumbashree, a network of women's self-help groups.

The LDF has accused the Union government of suppressing the voices of state governments in the GST council while deciding on crucial matters, including revising GST for goods. The parties have demanded the withdrawal of the GST imposed on food items and called for steps to curb the spiralling prices of essential items.

BJP GOVT FAILED TO CHECK INFLATION’

The members of the various LDF constituent parties took out rallies in all the districts, while the dharnas were held in front of central government offices. In Thiruvananthapuram, the dharna was held near the Raj Bhavan.

Speaking in the dharna, Anavoor Nagappan, district secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], accused the BJP government of failing in its duty to prevent the skyrocketing prices of essentials.

“The Reserve Bank of India has increased the lending rates twice earlier as a step to arrest inflation, which failed. Recently, the rates were increased again. The RBI and the government are not ready to learn lessons from its failure,” he said.

As the inflation across the country continued to increase due to the lack of constructive intervention from the BJP led Union government, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have reported the lowest inflation rates.

“The strong public distribution system (PDS) is the principal reason for the arrest in inflation rates, which has reduced in May compared to the month of March. The Union government must reduce the exorbitant tax and cess imposed on petroleum products to ease inflation,” Nagappan said.

GST ON FOOD WILL FUEL INFLATION’

The imposing of GST has come as a shock to many, as it could further increase the price of the essential items.

“Instead of taking steps to reduce inflation, the government has imposed GST on rice, wheat, atta, milk and milk products. They have cited the reduction in revenue as the reason for imposing GST on food items. Why reduce the tax on super rich and corporates when the revenue is reducing? From this we can understand the priorities of the BJP government,” Nagappan questioned.

Considering this, the LDF government has refrained from imposing GST on 13 items supplied through SupplyCo and Kudumbashree.

Finance minister KN Balagopal informed the Assembly about the decision to continue with the exemption on such food items. The Chief Minister of Kerala had earlier raised concerns over the imposition of GST through a letter addressed to the Union finance minister.

The hasty imposition of GST was flayed by many non-BJP governments, citing the helplessness of the State governments in generating revenue. The composition of the GST council has almost made the state rely only on the mercy of the Union government.

LDF convener EP Jayarajan, a central committee member of the CPI(M) accused the Union government of imposing the tax on food items without consulting the state governments.

The LDF has also taken strong exception to the use of central agencies by the BJP governments to suppress the dissenting state governments. Former MP from CPI, Panniyan Raveendran, accused the use of Enforcement Directorate (ED) against the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) and former finance minister Dr Thomas Issac.

“The BJP government has converted independent constitutional bodies as their political arms. They are using the ED to threaten the opposition leaders across the country, which will not work in Kerala’, he said.

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