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States set separate dates to implement e-way bill
February, 03rd 2018

In what will further increase confusion for companies and transporters after the central e-way bill portal crashed, state governments are now giving separate dates for its implementation for cargo transportation.

Earlier in the morning, the Gujarat government notified that the fresh date for implementation of the bill is February 20, which was seen by ET. A person in the know said Uttarakhand has set a date of February 10. Some have said they will wait for a fresh date from the Centre.

The e-way bill portal crashed on Thursday on its first day of implementation leading to shipments worth hundreds of crores being stuck on highways. The bill, a key element of the goods and services tax (GST) regime, is a complex new digital document and tracker of cargo transportation by road. It was introduced on a trial period on January 15 and was scheduled for implementation on February 1.

The GST Council said in a tweet on Thursday that it was extending the trial period and would give a fresh date of nationwide implementation shortly.

There are two kinds of e-way bills generated for intra-state and interstate transportation. State governments are accountable for the former, but experts said such arbitrary dates would be a problem as there is a common database of bills.

"The different dates will create a lot of confusion," said Sachin Menon, head of indirect taxes at KPMG.

"All of this goes into a single NIC (National Informatics Centre) database. So, these different dates are actually meaningless unless there is an assurance from the NIC that the portal will be up and running," he explained.

"The question isn't of dates but of procedures. They should be carefully aligned and thought through. There should be proper testing before this is implemented," said the CEO of a top logistics company in India who didn't want to be named.

"These major glitches in back-end planning create a massive chaos in the system. They shake confidence. It takes time to do things, but even more to undo and redo them."

"Also, the systems have to be ready to take that load that thousands of traders trying to generate bills will generate. Unless it's ready, it will crash again," said Vijay Kumar, chief operating officer of the Express Industry Council of India, a lobbying body of express transporters.

The bill is generated every time a cargo item worth more than Rs 50,000 crosses 10 km. Any entity under GST, the shipper/consigner, the logistics company or the transporter can generate the bill.

Most companies still have shipments stuck in highways "as they are unwilling to just be reassured by tweets that the trial period had been extended", said a person in the know of things.

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