Traders have no reason to complain, says Arun Jaitley.
New Delhi: After the “historic” launch of GST, protests erupted in many parts of the country against the new tax regime. While in several cities and towns, shops did not conduct any business as they are yet to transition to the new tax system, in others merchants and traders downed shutters or came out on the streets to express their resentment at being put into a higher tax bracket.
While in Tamil Nadu, around 1,100 cinema owners have called for an indefinite strike from Monday, in Kashmir most shops and other business establishments remained shut on Saturday to protest against GST, prompting authorities to impose restrictions on the assembly of people as a precautionary measure.
Majority cloth shops in Gujarat also remained shut, while the few which were open, said they did not carry out any business transaction.
There are around three lakh cloth merchants in Gujarat who will suffer losses due to the ongoing protest, cloth merchant association said.
The Edappadi Palaniswami government in Tamil Nadu has introduced a 30 per cent municipal tax on cinemas for tickets that cost over Rs 100, in addition to the 28 per cent tax that is levied under GST.
In Srinagar, traders said they would not allow the implementation of the new tax regime in the state in its present form, claiming that it would lead to erosion of the special status and the fiscal autonomy of the state.
Ahmedabad’s kite manufacturers also protested against GST by taking out a rally. They said kite manufacturing being a cottage industry, GST on them will adversely affect small seasonal earnings made by local manufacturers.
Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P. Chidambaram hit out at the Centre for rolling out GST in its present form, saying it has many “defects” and its full impact will be known only in “due course.” However, the first implication of implementing GST will be “some inflation” and nobody can deny that, he said.
Reacting to reports of protests, finance minister Arun Jaitley wondered why traders were complaining about GST rates when the ultimate burden of taxation would fall on consumers. “Nowhere in the country is the consumer complaining because we have tried to make the basket of taxation reasonable. So why are one or two traders complaining? Traders don’t have to pay tax, consumers have to,” he said.
Wholesale markets across Madhya Pradesh said footfalls were few on Saturday following confusion over the duty structure under GST regime.
“It was at the stroke of midnight that India got freedom and again at the stroke of midnight, the trading community of our country lost their independence to license raj. It will be a bane for the trading community,” senior TMC leader Partha Chatterjee said.
BJP chief Amit Shah, however, said that the new tax regime would accelerate the country’s economic growth and end “inspector raj”.