The state government's decision to impose fresh or additional value-added tax (VAT) on commodities of daily use, including food items, cosmetics, saris, sand and auto parts, has given the opposition a tool to attack the Nitish Kumar government.
The opposition parties, which were till now berating the government for its failure to control crime, on Wednesday called Nitish "anti-people" for imposing tax on food items, general cosmetic items and sand.
Senior BJP leader Nand Kishore Yadav termed the decision as "inhuman" as many poor people would not be able to build a home or even occasionally consume sweetmeats. "Nitish is cheating the voters of Bihar by imposing unwanted tax. A poor man, who struggles and saves money for a house, will have to pay tax on sand for construction of his house," said Yadav.
Former deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi, who was earlier finance minister in the Nitish government, said the decision was a step towards promoting licence raj. "Imposition of tax will give more power to officers and force people to run from one office to another," said Modi.
Hindustani Awam Morcha-Secular (HAM-S) spokesman Danish Rizwan went a step ahead and alleged the Nitish government is worse than the governments of RJD chief Lalu Prasad and his wife Rabri Devi. "In Lalu-Rabri regime, there were scams which did not have a direct impact on people. The current government has found a sophisticated way to fleece people by imposing tax on goods of daily use," Rizwan said, adding the decision to impose VAT on goods of daily use is unethical, especially when it is done to compensate losses to the state exchequer due to ban on sale of country liquor from April 1.
Recommended By Colombia Jan Adhikar Party patron Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav appealed to the government to reconsider its decision.
RJD and JD (U) leaders, however, defended the state government. "VAT has been imposed only on sweets, dry fruits, costly sari and cosmetic items which are expensive and not used by people from economically weaker sections of the society," JD (U) spokesman Dr Ajay Alok said and claimed all these products are taxed in all BJP-ruled states of the country.
On imposition of VAT on sand, he said sand mafia is exploiting natural resources of the state and selling it at a very high price. "There are instances of businessmen mining sand far more than the permissible limit as there is no to check. Now, there will be an officer to collect tax and no one will be able to overexploit the natural resource," Alok said.
RJD spokesman Chittaranjan Gagan blamed the Centre. He said the Centre forced the Bihar government to resort to such a decision and augment its internal resources by changing the pattern of funding to the states. "The Centre has reduced funds for rural roads and electrification. If the state has to continue development work, it will need resources which can be increased only by imposing tax," said Gagan.