Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi urging him to exempt Covid-related life saving drugs and equipment from GST and customs duty to eliminate supply constraints amidst the rapid surge in fresh Covid cases in the second wave of the pandemic. Miss Banerjee also urged Mr Modi to strengthen health infrastructure and augment supplies of equipment, medicines and oxygen for treatment of Covid patients.

Urging Mr Modi to consider exempting organisations, agencies and individuals who are supplying equipment and drugs related to management of Covid pandemic from customs duty and other Central taxes, Miss Banerjee wrote: “A large number of organisations, individuals and benevolent agencies have come forward to donate oxygen concentrators, cylinders, cryogenic storage tank, tankers and tank containers and Covid related drugs. Donations from these organizations will greatly supplement the efforts of the state government in meeting the huge gap in demand and supply.”

She added in the communication that “many of the donors and agencies have approached the State government to consider exemptions of these items from customs duty/ SGST/CGST/IGST”. “As the rate structure falls under the preview of the Central government, I would request these items may be exempted from GST/Customs duty and other such duty and taxes to help remove supply constraints of above mentioned drugs and equipment and contribute to effective management of Covid pandemic, “ the letter added.

Miss Banerjee also pointed out that the everyone including her state government is “trying its best to face new challenges and making all efforts to channelling resources from different sources, including ensuring availability of life saving drugs and oxygen for Covid treatment”  in the event of sudden spike of Covid cases in general and also in West Bengal. Miss Banerjee has been attacking the Centre for “failing” to control the spread of the disease in the country.

Over the past few days she has written three letters to the Prime Minister requesting him to allow free-of-cost vaccination against Covid to all, to ensure adequate supply of essential drugs and hike allocation of medical oxygen for West Bengal. Slamming the Centre over Covid management, Miss Banerjee had said, “Why are they not allotting Rs 30,000 crores for vaccines when they are making new Parliament and statues, spending Rs 20,000 crores?”