Just as ''justice delayed is justice denied, relief delayed is also relief denied'', Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said on Twitter.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council in its meeting on Saturday has slashed tax rate on COVID-19 drugs such as Remdesivir and Tocilizumab as well as on medical oxygen and oxygen concentrators but ignored demands for reduction in taxes on vaccines.
Hand sanitiser, pulse oximeter, BiPAP machine, testing kit, ambulance and temperature check equipment were among 18 items on which GST rates were lowered.
Surjewala also said that ''as lakhs died between Feb-May 2021, Modi Govt-FM-GST Council ignored repeated pleas to reduce GST rates''. ''Post the mayhem and deaths, the belated wake up call is empty lip service,'' he said. His party colleague, Jairam Ramesh, said the entire GST structure has been distorted to the extent of being destroyed, while West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra alleged that the GST council has seen the slow death of the only body of cooperative federalism. ''GoI (government of India) led the anti-people move and imposed GST on vaccine, mask, hand sanitiser, oxygen, PPE (personal protective equipment), oximeter, Covid test kit, Remdesivir, RT-PCR machine...Since my voice ignored, I have recorded my dissent by letter. Unprecedented. ''Slow death of the only body of cooperative federalism,'' Mitra tweeted.
Ramesh said, ''My colleague Manpreet Badal, the Punjab FM (finance minister), expresses his anguish at today's GST Council meeting.'' ''The entire GST structure has been distorted badly, its original intent destroyed,'' he tweeted. Punjab Finance Minister and Congress leader Manpreet Badal also tweeted, ''Once in a century crisis, GST Council's GOM should stop acting like a shahenshah.'' He said, ''COVID-19 GST should be zero-rated, don't end COVID-19 exemptions in August 2021.'' Badal, who is a member of the GST council, said it is preposterous that the Congress, the principal opposition party of India in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha has been excluded in GST's group of ministers.
He also sought operationalising the position of vice-chairperson of the GST council at the Council meeting and said the council must have its own secretariat, and dispute resolution mechanism.
''How would a consumer feel seeing GST reflected on an invoice on COVID-19 treatment'' he asked.
''GST on COVID-19 preventive materials, and masks, PPEs, hand sanitisers, medical grade oxygen, testing kits, ventilators, BiPAP machine, and pulse oximeters is insensitive. Attempt to pick and choose exemptions on the grounds of inverted duty structure or cheaper imports would destroy the foundation of GST,'' Nadal said in a series of tweets after the council's meeting.
''COVID-19 exemptions should not end on August 31, 2021. Is COVID-19 going to be over by then,'' he asked.