GST on Food items Rubbing Salt

The Modi regime’s decision to impose 5% GST on food items including pre-packed and pre-labeled pulses/daal, wheat, rye, oats, maize, rice, atta, suji/rawa, besan, muri (puffed rice), milk and curd/lassi imposes a cruel additional burden on people who are already suffering the steepest rates of inflation and unemployment in decades.

When touting his introduction of GST, PM Modi had claimed that blames his predecessors for “taxing even food items like milk and curd”, claiming that GST would lower tax burdens on consumers while increasing government revenue. The decision to impose GST on the selfsame food items exposes those claims as yet another “jumla” (empty rhetoric).
In times of severe distress for the vast majority of ordinary Indians, the Modi regime is choosing to tax essential food items – while continuing to write off taxes for the super-rich crony corporations.

FM Nirmala Sitharaman’s clarification that food items sold loose will not face GST, fails to reassure. With the spread of organized wholesale and retail market, packed branded food items are replacing the ‘kirana’ shops that use to sell loose food items. GST on food items will hit the poor hard, as well as the middle classes which are already finding the going tough with stretched monthly budgets as salary and income levels flatten out.

The government’s explanation that GST is being imposed since tax was not paid by big brands does not cut ice: GST being an indirect tax, tax on the manufacturer/seller is bound to have a direct impact on the consumer. If the government is really serious about raising revenues from corporates selling branded food items, the better and viable option is to raise the corporate tax on their income, which in India is at lowest level in world with thousands of crores of waivers offered to big businesses each year.

This anti-people decision of the government has come at the time when unemployment and underemployment is already at record high, and income levels have not even been restored to pre-Covid levels. This needs to be resisted with people’s united assertion for their economic rights.