NEW DELHI: The government has put together an elaborate strategy to distribute the foreign aid pouring in from countries, multinational corporations and individuals and has taken measures to scrap duties on relief material for faster rollout on ground.
On Monday, the government did away with Integrated GST (IGST) on Covid-related relief material such as some medicines, oxygen and related equipment, ventilators and test kits donated or received free of cost from overseas and meant for free distribution.
The move follows a series of requests since last week as the IGST on some of the products was as high as 28% and imposed a significant burden although the government had announced a customs duty waiver for a limited period earlier. In fact, there were several consignments lying at customs ports as the recipient was not paying the levy. The exemption would also cover goods already imported but lying uncleared at the customs ports.
For an equipment such as a concentrator that costs, say Rs 1 lakh, the freight and IGST of 28% often added up to Rs 40,000-45,000, government officials acknowledged.
The finance ministry said that representations had been received from charitable organisations, corporate entities, and other associations and entities resulting in the exemption being made available till June 30. The Centre was earlier waiting for a meeting of the GST Council, chaired by finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, but decided to expedite the exemption.
Following the government decision, revenue secretary Tarun Bajaj, Central Board of Indirect Tax and Customs chairman Ajit Kumar and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant urged states to use the facility quickly. All government-to-government aid is being handled by the External Affairs Ministry. The allocation to various entities is being handled by the Health Ministry.
The NITI Aayog has set up a digital dashboard and a control room for tracking all allocation from the private sector, multinationals, associations, industries Indian diaspora, and professionals. Nodal officers have been set up in NITI Aayog, MEA, Health Ministry to deal with the situation. The Indian Red Cross society has also been roped in. “End to end tracking is being done by a team of young officers for transparency and to ensure that the relief material is reaching the end beneficiaries,” said Kant.