After 3-day breather, shops will down shutters to protest against LBT

If the sight of open shops doing business as usual cheered you over the weekend, don’t exhale in relief thinking that the LBT protest has finally lived out its contentious course.

A candle-light vigil to protest LBT at Marine Drive last night
Fiery issue: A candle-light vigil to protest LBT at Marine Drive last night. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Instead, grab that bloating shopping list you stuck under the refrigerator magnets and make that long overdue trip to the mart. The shops will down shutters again on Wednesday.

Holy day
After observing a weeklong bandh against the introduction of local body tax, retailers and jewellers have rolled up the shutters for three days, starting yesterday. The decision to stay open until tomorrow comes in the backdrop of Akshaya Tritiya -- a festival in the Hindu calendar considered auspicious to make gold or other purchases -- which falls today. Traders say they called off the strike for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday so consumers are not put off at an auspicious time and merchants do not lose out on the brisk festive trade.

However, flaring up your mid-week crisis, the stop-work protest will resume on Wednesday, May 15.

It strikes again
Mohan Gurnani, president of Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM) which is at the vanguard of the protests against LBT, said that wholesale businesses would continue to remain shut, while retailers would open shop for three days because of Akshaya Tritiya, thought to be an ideal occasion for buying things.

“From iron to electronics and even grains, wholesale markets would continue to be closed. However, retailers will open business from May 12. On May 15 they will again close down their shops and join the other traders in the protest against LBT,” Gurnani said, adding, “On May 16 traders all over Maharashtra will undertake a jail bharo andolan.”

The intermittent strike against the LBT is testing the patience of consumers, specially the lower middle classes, who cannot afford to go to the big malls to shop for necessities or for other occasions on their schedule. 

Golden opportunity?
With jewellery shops shut, many people were tied down as they could not purchase gold for Akshaya Tritiya, or other functions like a wedding in the family. Some jewellery shop owners reported losses, with a majority of their stock trapped in godowns: they were unable to access it due to the LBT strike. 

The storeowners said that with the plunge in gold prices, customers were buying the yellow metal, yet they were unable to cater to them as they were shut.

Anagha Deshmukh, a professional in the city, said, “We have a marriage in the family on June 2 and we were stuck as jewellery shops and other retail shops were shut. We were really worried whether the strike would be called off. We are through with the shopping now.”

Surendra Shekhawat, cashier at Rajawat jewellers, said, “We have certain deliveries for Akshaya Tritiya. Customers booked the valuables and made payments long ago. We cannot block their order, so we have kept the store open. We do not want customers to repent the purchase because of the strike.”

We are happy to open shop today (Sunday). We had three days off on the trot and we have suffered a lot. Consumers find it very difficult if such shops are closed. We feel that the government should frame certain rules and regulations, but implementation of LBT will be distressing.
-- Hitesh Khamgar, hardware retailer

Today is our day to earn as much as possible and save some for future. A lot of customers are willing to purchase more stock as they have no idea when the shops will shut again.
-- Amar Rajput, retailer

Today I stocked my house with all the essentials and grocery items. Customers can’t predict when the shops will close again. We need to be prepared for that. I have my grandson’s naming ceremony in a few days. So happy to see that jewellery shops have opened so I can shop for it.
-- Sucheta Shikhare, Thane resident

I have a grandson at home, and given how children’s demands keep piling up, we need to make sure we are equipped to meet them. After the grocery shops opened today, I thanked God that I was able to stock up biscuits and other groceries needed every day.
-- Aruna Ghatnekar, housewife from Dadar

They (shopkeepers) are not doing a good job by closing the shops. This is a punishment for consumers. But I am happy to see the shops open as we can purchase what we want and store up for a few more days
-- Deepak Chaurasia, SoBo resident

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