M A I N   N E W S

Traders’ strike almost total
Govt firm on VAT: Dasgupta
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 30
The three-day nationwide traders’ strike against the introduction of a comprehensive value added tax (VAT) regime began today. The Confederation of All-India Traders (Cait) and the Bharat Udyog Vyapar Mandal (BUVM), the two major traders’ bodies’ spearheading the agitation, claimed that strike was total all across the country.

Reports reaching from other parts of the country, however, said the bandh call evoked mixed response with retailers carrying on with their usual business even though wholesale business was affected.

In Delhi, Punjab and certain other northern states petrol pumps were closed as dealers were protesting the proposed diesel price hike as a consequence of VAT.

The Cait, however, claimed that more than four crore traders across the country observed the strike.

Traders in some states like Tripura and Karnataka will go on strike tomorrow while there will be no agitation in Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Meghalaya.

Secretary General of CAIT Praveen Khandelwal said the decision of the empowered committee to introduce VAT from April 1 is an “error of judgement” as there will be unhealthy competition in those states who have implemented VAT and those who have not.

He further said that the non-uniform implementation of VAT throughout the country will adversely affect the inter-state trade. The laxity on part of the government clearly reflects from the fact that even the list of 550 items identified by the empowered committee to be placed in different tax slabs is not available.

Under the proposed VAT system covering about 550 goods, there would be only two basic rates of 4 per cent and 12.5 per cent, plus a specific category of tax-exempted goods and a special VAT rate of 1 per cent only for gold and silver ornaments. This would do away with the multiplicity of rates in the existing structure.

There would be also a list of 46 commodities under the exempted category comprising natural and unprocessed products in unorganised sector, items, which were legally barred from taxation, and items that had social implications.

Mr Khandelwal said the Cait would be presenting a petition to President A.P.J Abdul Kalam in this regard.

Kolkata: The state Finance Minister, Mr Asim Dasgupta, who is the chairman of the high-power committee in finalising the VAT scheme, today appealed to the traders to call off their strike and come to the negotiating table.

He accused that some vested interests were trying to disturb the country’s trade market by campaigning against the implementation of the VAT scheme for an ulterior motive. But he made it clear the government would not withdraw the VAT in any case since this would affect the consumers as well as the traders.


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