Representatives from several industries, including textiles, grains, spices and dry fruits, on Thursday observed a day’s strike in Gujarat to oppose the proposed goods and services tax (GST). The state is said to have lost over Rs 15,000-crore business owing to the day-long protest. Out of the total loss, the textiles industry alone has reportedly lost business worth Rs 10,000 crore, while the grains and spices industries over Rs 5,000 crore. “After the GST Council declared the rates, various trade bodies and merchants made representations to the government requesting it to revise the rates on textiles, processed food and dry fruits. We have not received a positive response from either the state or the Centre so far. So, we decided to hold a day’s strike to oppose the proposed rates of 5-12% on various items. Because of the strike, the state has lost business of over Rs 15,000 crore in a day,” said Jayendra Tanna, president of the Gujarat Traders’ Federation. According to Tanna, traders and cloth merchants will again meet Union finance minister Arun Jaitley after the GST Council meeting to be held on June 18 and will decide their future strategy after the meeting.
More than 1,50,000 cloth merchants across the state downed their shutters as part of the protest on Thursday. Gaurang Bhagat, president of Maskati Cloth Merchants Association, said: “We have been traditionally exempted from any kind of sales tax and VAT since 1957. The 5% GST imposed on yarn and fabric will create a lot of trouble to those in the business of selling cloth. The process of GST is lengthy and it will begin ‘inspector raj’ in our industry. We are demanding nil tax and if the government does not agree, our agitation will turn more aggressive.”
Grain traders across the state also joined the protest. Over 200 agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) remained shut to support the grain merchants. The GST Council has proposed 5-12% tax on processed and packed grain items. The dry fruits and kirana associations also observed a total shutdown against the high rate of 12% for dry fruits. Hiteshbhai Pariyani, chairman of Dry Fruits Association, said: “We welcome GST, but the higher rates on dry fruits and kirana are not feasible. After several attempts to reach the authorities, we felt our voice hasn’t been heard. Therefore, through this bandh, we want to draw the attention of the concerned authorities on how the livelihood of many would be affected by this unfairly high rate.” After Thursday’s protest, hardware and paint merchants have also decided to go on a protest on Friday against the 28% tax proposed by the government.