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LBT strike: Supreme Court dismisses petition by Pune traders

As the order isn’t in their favour, traders have decided to continue their strike. In fact they claim to be even stronger with the immense support they are receiving from various organisations and political parties, and say the protests are creating awareness amongst the people.

The protest against Local Body Tax
Too long a wait: The protest against Local Body Tax, which may also drag in chartered accountants and advocates, is affecting normal life and consumers want to see it end soon. Pic/Bipin Kokate

Maharashtra has been witnessing strong protests since the time government decided to introduce LBT after scrapping octroi. Most shops in Mumbai have been shut for over two days to protest LBT, which will be applicable from October. 

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Various associations including the wholesalers, retailers have joined the protest and the new entrant is The Bombay Goods and Transport Association that will join the stir today. Meanwhile, Kolhapur and Solapur traders have called for a complete bandh.

Almost every shop in Mumbai, except those providing essential commodities and transport, is shut.

Mohan Gurnani, president of Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), said, “It has always been an indefinite strike. Our agitation still continues till the time the government does not abolish LBT.” When asked about the losses traders are making on a daily basis, he said, “It is not only our loss but the government’s loss as well. We provide them thousands of crores in revenue. It is better to suffer now than suffer forever.”

The SC in its verdict has sustained LBT for the next four months till the High Court takes a decision. Rajendra Bhaleria, secretary of FAM said, “We have become even more powerful now. The hawkers’ association is also expected to join the protest. BJP and MLAs of various areas have protested against LBT. We have their support too.”

Bhaleria further added, “Our meeting with the CAs and advocates in the next 2 days will decide if they will be a part of our protests. We are expecting their support over the issue as well.”

Traders have been stressing on the process of filing LBT in their protests. They say it will be very burdensome to file returns every 40 days and will require chartered accountants.

The tax is also applicable on small-time traders like panwallahs and chaiwallahs. Bombay Chartered Accountant Society’s General Manager Cassem Rajabali, said, “We were quite optimistic about Supreme Court’s decision. However, the government is adamant. Our organisation acts like an NGO and gives representation to issues of public interest. There is nothing wrong with LBT; instead it is better than octroi. However the process and guidelines are cumbersome. We are questioning its practicality.”

Consumers speak
“The basic needs of consumers is getting affected due to this verdict. The basic needs of buying grocery and fruits are affected due to shut shops and chemists. It will be good if the strike comes to an end,” said Sagar Chowkekar (23).

Sharath Sawant (61), said, “I hope everything will be sorted out by Monday, as people cannot go ahead with the strike anymore as it’s affecting their basic needs. The government’s system is as usual a flop. The common man can just hope for things to be better.” Ajit Ganga (63), said, “It’s difficult to find any grocery shops open. The court verdict is not really a happy one as the shopkeepers are still planning to continue their strike.”

Inputs from Sujith Sudhakaran 

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