Protests in some cities against 'hasty' GST rollout

Protests in some cities against  'hasty' GST rollout

A train was stopped by traders in Uttar Pradesh and commercial establishments and wholesale commodity markets in some cities remained closed today in protest against the "hasty" rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime.

As the GST was set for an ambitious rollout, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) called for a general strike in the Valley tomorrow against the new unified tax system.

Protests against the GST broke out in different parts of Uttar Pradesh over "anomalies and complexities" in the GST while commercial establishments in major cities in Madhya Pradesh were closed as part of a bandh called by traders.

A trade bandh call by Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM) in West Bengal against the "hasty" rollout of the GST evoked mixed reaction.

Trade and industry bodies in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana urged the Centre to be lenient for at least one year on filing of returns as many more businesses come under the GST regime for the first time.

In Uttar Pradesh, Kanpur was one of the main centres of the protest with office bearers of trade organisations taking part. Reports of protests also came in from Varanasi, Allahabad, Jhansi, Faizabad, Shahjahanpur and Ghaziabad.

Traders in Kanpur squatted on rail tracks and stopped the Kanpur-Pratapgarh passenger train.

The traders led by 'Akhil Bhartiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal' leader Gyanendra Misra protested at the Lucknow railway crossing around 9.47 AM and stopped the local train.

It was only when the GRP personnel rushed to the spot and removed the protesters from the tracks that the train could resume its journey, Railway sources said, adding there was, however, no disturbance by the protesters at the main station.

The wholesale and retail markets in Kanpur werer closed with the trade organisations taking out processions in the market areas throughout the city.

The bandh call was given by Uttar Pradesh Udyog Vyapar Pratinidhi Mandal, which also got the support of around 50 trade organisations.

"We are not against the GST. But we are certainly not happy with the way GST is being implemented in a hasty manner. The officials and traders are not ready. Apart from this, the portal is not ready," Rajiv Anand, chairman of UP Yuva Vyapar Mandal, said.

"The transformation to GST should have been gradual and not a sudden one."
Wholesale commodity markets, including grains, pulses and sugar in Delhi were closed in protest against the five per cent GST on branded grains and sugar.

A majority of wholesale grain, pulse and other commodity shops were shut in Naya Bazar, said Ashok Kumar Bansal, General Secretary, Grain Merchant Welfare Organisation.

Bansal said the organisation has been demanding a zero per cent GST rate. Branded grains, rice, sugar and atta will be levied a five per cent GST.

According to Ravindra Modi, president of the Federation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, it would take at least six months for the trade to get accustomed to the new regime.

"...There are some issues that need clarity. We will learn about it only after implementation," Modi said.

"Many more new traders and service providers will now come under the tax fold. They need some time to become familiar with the taxation and filing systems," he said.

In Madhya Pradesh, shops in main cities like Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, and Jabalpur downed their shutters while commercial activities remained suspended in small towns as well. The bandh was called by various organisations of traders.

In Bhopal, important commercial markets like MP Nagar, New Market, Chowk, Bairagarh, BHEL township etc. largely remained closed.

"We are not against the GST but are protesting its anomalies and complexities. The Centre is going to impose this new tax regime without any prior preparation. The government has not taken traders into confidence," Bhopal Chamber of Commerce and Industries general secretary Vishnu Bansal said.

Bansal said a total of 72 traders' organisations extended their support to today's bandh.

According to Bansal, business in almost all major cities and towns in MP was affected due to the bandh.

In West Bengal, impact was visible in shops of Burrabazar, Asia's biggest wholesale market and the city's prominent retail hub New Market, as they downed their shutters.

There were reports of many retail stores remaining closed in various parts of Kolkata and the state.

"The bandh is in protest against the procedures and provisions of GST, " an official of the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations said. He said response to the bandh was mixed in the districts.

The KTMF while calling for a general strike in Kashmir Valley tomorrow said they will not allow the implementation of this new law, even if we have to sacrifice their lives.
"We will not allow the erosion of our special status. We are giving a call for Kashmir bandh tomorrow,"  KTMF president Muhammad Yasin Khan said.

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