Textile merchants of Surat and Ahmedabad are set to prolong their ongoing agitation against implementation of the goods and services tax (GST). Traders are sticking to their demand for exemption for the industry for at least one year to understand and implement the new rules. Over 80,000 merchants of Surat have refused to open their shops since the last three days and are threatening to keep their shutters down indefinitely if the government does not consider their demand. Nearly 30,000 merchants from Ahmedabad too have joined the protest from Tuesday. “Process of GST is too tedious for small merchants. We need some time to understand it and we are only demanding one year for that. The governments of Japan and Germany had given exemptions to facilitate implementation. Then, why our government is not considering our demand? Traders are not against the law,” said Tarachand Kasat, president of Vyapari Sangarsh Samiti (VSS). It may be mentioned that the ongoing strike in Surat had taken a turn for the worse on Monday when police resorted to lathi charge on thousands of traders who had gathered in the heart of the city in a bid to force them to reopen their establishments.
Kasat said, “it is difficult to say that how long we will continue our protest but merchants are not happy with government’s attitude. They are small traders and want some time to understand the new things. Textile industry is the second-largest employer in India after agriculture, and the government is not even listening to our demand.”
However, the agitation is peaceful in Ahmedabad so far. Textile traders assembled in the main cloths market in Ahmedabad and chanted slogans against the GST. The merchant associations also met the Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and officials of GST council to represent their demand. Gaurang Bhagat, president of Maskati Cloths Merchants Association, said, “We have met the state government to do the needful in our demand but so far our experience is disappointing.” Textile traders in Ahmedabad are planning to review the situation on Wednesday before deciding their future course of action. The association is preparing a fresh representation to the Union government.