West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a letter, to waive all forms of taxes and customs duty on equipment and drugs being used to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. She urged PM Modi to strengthen health infrastructure and augment supplies of equipment, medicines and oxygen for the treatment of COVID-19 positive patients.
A large number of organizations, individuals and benevolent agencies have come forward to donate oxygen concentrators, cylinders, cryogenic storage tanks, tankers and tank containers, and COVID-related drugs,” Banerjee wrote in the letter. “Donations from these organizations will greatly supplement the efforts of the state government in meeting the huge gap in demand and supply.”
The chief minister highlighted that many of the donors and agencies have approached the state government to consider exemption of these items from customs duty, SGST, CGST, LGST. “As the rate structure falls under the purview of the Central Government, I would request that these items may be exempted from GST/customs duty and other such duties and taxes, to help remove supply constraints of the abovementioned life-saving drugs and equipment and contribute towards effective management of COVID pandemic.”
The West Bengal government has moved the Supreme Court seeking directions to disband Phase-III vaccine policy of the Centre and adoption of a uniform policy of procuring 100% doses of COVID-19 from vaccine manufacturers for equitable distribution to all the states and Union Territories for free decentralized distribution. The state government also sought setting aside the differential pricing mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines and capping the price for the vaccines at a uniform price of Rs 150 per dose.
Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday had assured Banerjee that the Modi government was firm in its resolve to help the state fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Referring to her earlier letter, he said the Centre has been supporting each and every state not just financially, but also through requisite diagnostics, therapeutics, medical devices and other essential materials and services.