Poor Internet connectivity is turning out to be a challenge for the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), particularly in the North East, as the Centre pushes for the July 1 deadline to implement the new indirect tax regime.
Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia has written to his counterpart in the Telecom Ministry — P. K. Pujari, red-flagging various connectivity issues, which if not addressed at the earliest, may lead to a delay in implementation of the biggest indirect tax reform.
The implementation of GST requires high-speed connectivity between the GST server and the State VAT data centre, and also between District VAT office and State VAT office since the processing of returns, among other processes, is done online. Additionally, all dealers have to upload invoice-wise details online, Mr. Adhiastressed in his letter.
Mr. Adhia, who had visited Arunachal Pradesh and other north-eastern states last week, was apprised of the “serious constraints in terms of availability of Internet” at a meeting with the State’s Chief Secretary, Commissioner of VAT and IT Secretary.
In his communique to the Telecom Secretary dated April 21, Mr. Adhia had requested that a senior Department of Telecom official be entrusted the work of “supervising the connectivity in North East and have all these complaints removed.”
“There are multiple projects going on in North East…However, the progress is poor and there is no coordination among all the agencies doing work,” Mr. Adhia said in the letter.
He added that there is a strong need for having one Deputy Director level officer of Department of Telecom in Itanagar to coordinate these projects. In Arunachal Pradesh, he pointed out, the optical fibre cable is available only in 7 of the 20 districts. “Railtel seems to have been given a target of laying OFC in Arunachal Pradesh for 192 nodes. The last date of completion is December 2017. But so far, only 26 nodes are connected and it does not appear that they will be able to achieve the target,” Mr. Adhia said.
The revenue secretary further stated that there is a serious shortage of optical fibre cables, leading to delay in completion of work. In addition, the agencies doing work are not following the norms of depth at which the OFC cable should be laid and as a “result there are many instances of cutting OFCs in road repair works. This creates problem for connectivity.”
There is also a problem of a lot of time being taken by Border Roads Organisation in giving Right of Use (ROU) permission in case of damaged cables. “Therefore, DoT should take up a coordination meeting with BRO to get this expedited,” the letter said.
With little more than two months to go for the proposed GST rollout, the government is yet to finalise the tax rates that will apply for different products but is confident of implementing the new tax regime from July 1. Constitutional amendments to enable the GST regime mean that all existing indirect taxes and levies will lapse from September this year.