GST roll-out: Traders greet tax with nationwide protests, strike on Friday

Business Standard By Archis Mohan June 30, 2017. 02:11 IST

Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal said it would observe a daylong Bharat Bandh on Friday

Even as the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre rolls out the goods and services tax (GST) on Friday midnight, it will be greeted by protests and strikes across the country.

The Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, which claims to represent 17,000 traders’ associations and small and medium enterprises, said it would observe a daylong Bharat Bandh (countrywide strike) on Friday, demanding changes in the GST regime.

Over the past week, its affiliate associations, especially in the textile sector, have been protesting against some provisions in the GST. Traders, small and medium entrepreneurs, and farmers have planned a series of protests through July and August.

“We have several issues with the GST system and rates. The tax on some of the items will be fatal for SMEs,” Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal Secretary General Vijay Prakash Jain said. If its protests do not get a satisfactory response from the government, the association’s core committee will meet on July 6 to decide on the course of action.

Not all traders’ organisations, however, are on the protest path. For instance, the Confederation of All India Traders has decided to undertake consultation with the government.

“The GST is a new system. There is scope for amendments in the next six months. But the government should take cognisance of the issues being raised by other traders’ bodies,” CAIT chief Praveen Khandelwal said.

Protests of farmers’ and traders’ unions are likely to be more intense than any the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government at the Centre has faced since being voted into power in 2014. These could reach a crescendo in the run-up to the general elections in 2019.

Over a hundred farmer organisations will stage protests and take out marches from Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, where six farmers were killed in police firing on June 6, to New Delhi and other parts of the country.

Farmers’ outfits have decided to mark August 9, the anniversary of the Quit India Movement of 1942, with protests in state capitals and New Delhi. The monsoon session of Parliament, which starts on July 17, will be on then.

A march, supported by 130-odd farmer organisations, to highlight agrarian distress will begin from Mandsaur on July 3 and reach New Delhi on July 18.

A farmer leader, who did not want to be identified, said tillers’ outfits of all political hues, including those associated with the RSS, were coming together for these protests and to demand the implementation of the Swaminathan commission’s recommendations.

All central trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-supported Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, are scheduled to meet in New Delhi on August 8. They will strategise on how to protest against the Modi government’s economic policies, including disinvestment of public sector units such as Air India and privatisation in the Indian Railways.

Lok Sabha member Raju Shetti, chief of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, has committed his support to the protests. Shetti’s party is part of the NDA governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra. Protests have also been planned outside the NITI Aayog on July 3.

The monsoon session of Parliament is likely to be a stormy one, with the Opposition raising issues of farmer distress, mob lynchings, and the GST impact on SMEs.

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