Over the last two months, the centre and over 15 states have passed laws to levy the Goods and Services Tax (GST).  Under these laws, tax rates recommended by the GST Council will be notified by the government.  The Council met in Srinagar last week to approve rates for various items.  Following this decision, the government has indicated that it may invoke provisions under the GST laws to monitor prices of goods and services.[1]  This will be done by setting up an anti-profiteering authority to ensure that reduction in tax rates under GST results in a fall in prices of goods and services.  In this context, we look at the rates approved by the GST Council, and the role of the proposed authority to ensure that prices of various items do not increase under GST.

Q. What are the tax rates that have been approved by the Council?

The Council has classified various items under five different tax rates: (i) 5%, (ii) 12%, (iii) 18%, (iv) 28%, and (v) 28% with an additional GST compensation cess (see Table 1).[2],[3],[4]  While tax rates for most of the goods and services have been approved by the Council, rates for some remaining items such as biscuits, textiles, footwear, and precious metals are expected to be decided in its next meeting on June 3, 2017.

Table 1: Tax rates for goods and services as approved by the GST Council

  5% 12% 18% 28% 28% + Cess
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Medicines
  • Edible Oils
  • Butter and Cheese
  • Sanitary Napkins
  • Mobile Phones
  • Dry Fruits
  • Tractors
  • Agarbatti
  • Toothpaste
  • Soap Bars
  • Computers
  • Chocolate
  • Shampoo
  • Washing Machine
  • Air Conditioner (AC)
  • Aerated Drinks + 12% Cess
  • Small Cars + 1% or 3% Cess (depending on petrol or diesel engine)
  • Big Cars + 15% Cess
  • Transport by rail
  • Air transport by economy class
  • Air transport by business class
  • Non-AC Restaurant without liquor license
  • Restaurant with liquor license
  • AC Restaurant
  • Other services not specified under any other rate (such as telecommunication and financial services)
  • Entertainment (such as cinemas and theme parks)
  • Gambling
  • Restaurants in 5 star hotels

Source: GST Council Press Release, Central Board for Excise and Customs.


Q. Will GST apply on all goods and services?

No, certain items such as alcohol for human consumption, and petroleum products such as petrol, diesel and natural gas will be exempt under GST.  In addition to these, the GST Council has also classified certain items under the 0% tax rate, implying that GST will not be levied on them.  This list includes items of daily use such as wheat, rice, milk, eggs, fresh vegetables, meat and fish.  Some services such as education and healthcare will also be exempt under GST.

Q. How will GST impact prices of goods and services?

GST subsumes various indirect taxes and seeks to reduce cascading of taxes (tax on tax).  With greater efficiency in the supply of products, enhanced flow of tax credits, removal of border check posts, and changes in tax rates, prices of goods and services may come down.[5],[6],[7]  Mr Arun Jaitley recently stated that the Council has classified several items under lower tax rates, when compared to the current system.[8]

However, since some tax rates such as VAT currently vary across states, the real impact of GST rates on prices may become clear only after its roll-out.  For example, at present VAT rates on smart phones range between 5-15% across states.  Under GST they will be taxed at 12%.[9]  As a result while phones may become marginally cheaper in some states, their prices may go up in some others.

Q. What happens if tax rates come down but companies don’t reduce prices?

Few people such as the Union Revenue Secretary and Finance Ministers of Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir have expressed concerns that companies may not lower their prices despite a fall in tax rates, in order to increase their profits.  The Revenue Secretary also stated that the government had received reports of few businesses increasing their product prices in anticipation of GST.[10]

To take care of such cases, the GST laws contain a provision which allows the centre to constitute an anti-profiteering authority.  The authority will ensure that a reduction in tax rates under GST is passed on to the consumers.  Specific powers and functions of the authority will be specified by the GST Council.[11],[12]

Q. Are there any existing mechanisms to regulate pricing of products?

Various laws have been enacted over the years to control the pricing of essential items, or check for unfair market practices.  For example, the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 controls the price of certain necessary items such as medicines, food items and fertilisers.[13]

Parliament has also created statutory authorities like the Competition Commission of India to check against unfair trade practices such as cartelisation by businesses to inflate prices of goods.  Regulators, such as the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority, are also responsible for regulating prices for items in their sectors.

Q. Could there be some challenges in implementing this mechanism?

To fulfil its mandate, the anti-profiteering authority could get involved in determining prices of various items.  This may even require going through the balance sheets and finances of various companies.  Some argue that this is against the idea of prices being determined by market forces of demand and supply.[14]

Another aspect to consider here is that the price of items is dependent on a combination of factors, in addition to applicable taxes.  These include the cost of raw material, technology used by businesses, distribution channels, or competition in the market.

Imagine a case where the GST rate on a category of cars has come down from the current levels, but rising global prices of raw material such as steel have forced a manufacturer to increase prices.  Given the mandate of the authority to ensure passing of lower tax rates to consumers, will it also consider the impact of rising input costs deciding the price of an item?  Since factor costs keep fluctuating, in some cases the authority may find it difficult to evaluate the pricing decision of a business.

Q. Have other countries tried to introduce similar anti-profiteering frameworks?

Some countries such as Malaysia have in the past introduced laws to check if companies were making unreasonably high profits after the roll-out of GST.[15]  While the law was supposed to remain in force for a limited period, the deadline has been extended a few times.  In Australia, during the roll out of GST in the early 2000s, an existing authority was entrusted with the role of taking action against businesses that unreasonably increased prices.[16]  The authority also put in place a strategy to raise consumer awareness about the available recourse in cases of price exploitation.

With rates for various items being approved, and the government considering a mechanism to ensure that any inflationary impact is minimised, the focus now shifts to the implementation of GST.  This includes operationalisation of the GST Network, and notification of rules relating to registration under GST and payment of tax.  The weeks ahead will be crucial for the authorities and various taxpayers in the country to ensure that GST is successfully rolled out from July 1, 2017.

[1] After fixing rates, GST Council to now focus on price behaviour of companies, The Hindustan Times, Ma 22, 2017, http://www.hindustantimes.com/business-news/after-fixing-rates-gst-council-to-now-focus-on-price-behaviour-of-companies/story-fRsAFsfEofPxMe2IXnXIMN.html.

[2] GST Rate Schedule for Goods, Central Board of Excise and Customs, GST Council, May 18, 2017, http://www.cbec.gov.in/resources//htdocs-cbec/gst/chapter-wise-rate-wise-gst-schedule-18.05.2017.pdf.

[3] GST Compensation Cess Rates for different supplies, GST Council, Central Board of Excise and Customs, May 18, 2017, http://www.cbec.gov.in/resources//htdocs-cbec/gst/gst-compensation-cess-rates-18.05.2017.pdf.

[4] Schedule of GST Rates for Services as approved by GST Council, GST Council, Central Board of Excise and Customs, May 19, 2017, http://www.cbec.gov.in/resources//htdocs-cbec/gst/Schedule%20of%20GST%20rates%20for%20services.pdf.

[5] GST rate impact: Here’s how the new tax can carry a greater punch, The Financial Express, May 24, 2017, http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/gst-rate-impact-heres-how-the-new-tax-can-carry-a-greater-punch/682762/.

[6] “So far, the GST Council has got it right”, The Hindu Business Line, May 22, 2017, http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/the-gst-council-has-got-it-right/article9709906.ece.

[7] “GST to cut inflation by 2%, create buoyancy in economy: Hasmukh Adhia”, The Times of India, May 21, 2017, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/business/india-business/gst-to-cut-inflation-by-2-create-buoyancy-in-economy-hasmukh-adhia/articleshow/58772448.cms.

[8] GST rate: New tax to reduce prices of most goods, from milk, coal to FMCG goods, The Financial Express, May 19, 2017, http://www.financialexpress.com/economy/gst-rate-new-tax-to-reduce-prices-of-most-goods-from-milk-coal-to-fmcg-goods/675722/.

[9] “Goods and Services Tax (GST) will lead to lower tax burden in several commodities including packaged cement, Medicaments, Smart phones, and medical devices, including surgical instruments”, Press Information Bureau, Ministry of Finance, May 23, 2017.

[10] “GST Townhall: Main concern is consumer education, says Adhia”, Live Mint, May 24, 2017.

[11] The Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, http://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/GST,%202017/Central%20GST%20Act,%202017.pdf.

[12] Rajasthan Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017; Madhya Pradesh Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017; Uttar Pradesh Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017; Maharashtra Goods and Services Tax Bill, 2017.

[13] The Essential Commodities Act, 1955.

[14] “GST rollout: Anti-profiteering law could be the new face of tax terror”, The Financial Express, May 23, 2017, http://www.financialexpress.com/opinion/gst-rollout-anti-profiteering-law-could-be-the-new-face-of-tax-terror/680850/.

[15] Price Control Anti-Profiteering Act 2011, Malaysia.

[16] ACCC oversight of pricing responses to the introduction of the new tax system, Australia Competition and Consumer Commission, January 2003, https://www.accc.gov.au/system/files/GST%20final%20report.pdf.

On October 2, 2021, Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) celebrates its seventh anniversary.  It was launched on October 2, 2014 to fulfil the vision of a cleaner India by October 2, 2019.  The objective of the Mission was to eliminate open defecation, eradicate manual scavenging, and promote scientific solid waste management.  In this blog post, we discuss the sanitation coverage leading up to the launch of the Swachh Bharat Mission and the progress made under this scheme.

Nation-wide sanitation programmes in past

According to the Census, the rural sanitation coverage in India was only 1% in 1981.  

The first nationwide programme with a focus on sanitation was the Central Rural Sanitation Programme (CRSP), which was started in 1986 to provide sanitation facilities in rural areas.  Later, in 1999, CRSP was restructured and launched as the Total Sanitation Campaign (TSC).  While CRSP was a supply-driven infrastructure-oriented programme based on subsidy, TSC was a demand-driven, community-led, project-based programme organised around the district as the unit.

By 2001, only 22% of the rural families had access to toilets.  It increased further to 32.7% by 2011.  In 2012, TSC was revamped as Nirmal Bharat Abhiyan (NBA) to accelerate the sanitation coverage in rural areas through saturation approach and by enhancing incentives for Individual Household Latrines (IHHL).

In comparison to rural sanitation, fewer programmes were enacted to tackle deficiencies in urban sanitation.  In the 1980s, the Integrated Low-Cost Sanitation Scheme provided subsidies for households to build low-cost toilets.  Additionally, the National Slum Development Project and its replacement programme, the Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana launched in 2001, were programmes that aimed to construct community toilets for slum populations.  In 2008, the National Urban Sanitation Policy (NUSP) was announced to manage human excreta and associated public health and environmental impacts.

On October 2, 2014, the Swachh Bharat Mission was launched with two components: Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) and Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban), to focus on rural and urban sanitation, respectively.  While the rural component of the Mission is implemented under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, the urban one is implemented by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.  In 2015, the Sub-Group of Chief Ministers on Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan under NITI Aayog had observed that the key difference between SBM and previous programmes was in the efforts to attract more partners to supplement public sector investment towards sanitation.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Gramin (SBM-Gramin)

The Sub-Group of Chief Ministers (2015) had noted that more than half of India’s 25 crore households do not have access to toilets close to places where they live.  Notably, during the 2015-19 period, a major portion of expenditure under the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation was towards SBM-Gramin (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Gramin during 2014-22

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates.  Expenditure before 2019-20 were from the erstwhile Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation. 
Sources: Union Budgets 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The expenditure towards Swachh Bharat – Gramin saw a steady increase from 2014-15 (Rs 2,841 crore) to 2017-18 (Rs 16,888 crore) and a decrease in the subsequent years.  Moreover, during 2015-18, the expenditure of the scheme exceeded the budgeted amount by more than 10%.  However, every year since 2018-19, there has been some under-utilisation of the allocated amount. 

As per the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation, 43.8% of the rural households had access to toilets in 2014-15, which increased to 100% in 2019-20 (see Figure 2).  However, the 15th Finance Commission (2020) noted that the practice of open defecation is still prevalent, despite access to toilets and highlighted that there is a need to sustain the behavioural change of people for using toilets. The Standing Committee on Rural Development raised a similar concern in 2018, noting that “even a village with 100% household toilets cannot be declared open defecation-free (ODF) till all the inhabitants start using them”.  The Standing Committee also raised questions over the construction quality of toilets and observed that the government is counting non-functional toilets, leading to inflated data.

Figure 2: Toilet coverage for rural households

Sources: Dashboard of SBM (Gramin), Ministry of Jal Shakti; PRS.

The 15th Finance Commission also noted that the scheme only provides financial incentives to construct latrines to households below the poverty line (BPL) and selected households above the poverty line.  It highlighted that there are considerable exclusion errors in finding BPL households and recommended the universalisation of the scheme to achieve 100% ODF status.

In March 2020, the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched Phase II of SBM-Gramin which will focus on ODF Plus, and will be implemented from 2020-21 to 2024-25 with an outlay of Rs 1.41 lakh crore.  ODF Plus includes sustaining the ODF status, and solid and liquid waste management.  Specifically, it will ensure that effective solid and liquid waste management is instituted in every Gram Panchayat of the country.

Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban (SBM-Urban)

SBM-Urban aims at making urban India free from open defecation and achieving 100% scientific management of municipal solid waste in 4,000+ towns in the country.  One of its targets was the construction of 66 lakh individual household toilets (IHHLs) by October 2, 2019.  However, this target was then lowered to 59 lakh IHHLS by 2019.  This target was achieved by 2020 (see Table 1).

Table 1: Toilet construction under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (as of December 30, 2020)


Original Target

Revised Target  
(revised in 2019)

Actual Constructed

Individual Household Latrines




Community and Public Toilets




Sources: Swachh Bharat Mission Urban - Dashboard; PRS.

Figure 3: Expenditure on Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban during 2014-22 (in Rs crore)

Note: Values for 2020-21 are revised estimates and 2021-22 are budget estimates. 
Sources: Union Budget 2014-15 to 2021-22; PRS.

The Standing Committee on Urban Development noted in early 2020 that toilets built under the scheme in areas including East Delhi are of very poor quality, and do not have adequate maintenance.  Further, only 1,276 of the 4,320 cities declared to be open defecation free have toilets with water, maintenance, and hygiene.  Additionally, it also highlighted in September 2020 that uneven release of funds for solid waste management across states/UTs needs to be corrected to ensure fair implementation of the programme. 

The Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021) also expressed concern about the slow pace in achieving targets for source segregation and waste processing.  The completion of their targets stood at 78% and 68% respectively of the goal set under SBM-Urban during 2020-21.  In addition, other targets related to the door-to-door collection of waste also remained unfulfilled (see Table 2).

Table 2: Waste management under Swachh Bharat Mission-Urban (progress as of December 30, 2020)



as of March 2020

as of December 2020

Door to Door Waste Collection (Wards)


81,535 (96%)

83,435 (97%)

Source Segregation (Wards)


64,730 (75%)

67,367 (78%)

Waste Processing (in %)




Sources: Standing Committee on Urban Development (2021); PRS.

In February 2021, the Finance Minister announced in her budget speech that the Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will be launched.  Urban Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 will focus on: (i) sludge management, (ii) waste-water treatment, (iii) source segregation of garbage, (iv) reduction in single-use plastics and (v) control of air pollution caused by construction, demolition, and bio-remediation of dumpsites.  On October 1, 2021, the Prime Minister launched SBM-Urban 2.0 with the mission to make all our cities ‘Garbage Free’.