The protest against Local Body Tax (LBT) by traders in the city gained momentum yesterday as several wholesale and retail stores in areas including Mulund, Ghatkopar, Dadar and Nana Chowk remained shut yesterday. Traders claim that starting Monday, even more retailers plan to pull down their shutters to participate in the agitation against the new tax, which is to be introduced in Maharashtra from October 1 in place of octroi.
Yesterday, the fast undertaken by 11 members of the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM) at Azad Maidan in Mumbai entered its third day. Holding placards like - ‘LBT applies, corruption multiples’, ‘LBT hatao Maharashtra bachao’ and ‘No LBT — No Octroi — No replacement’ — the traders shouted slogans asking the government to rollback LBT. Although the numbers of traders who were fasting were less, Mohan Gurnani, president of FAM, said that he had requested the association members to protest in their own areas and create awareness about how burdensome LBT would be. “Every year, the government is burdening the traders by implementing some new form of tax.
The implementation of LBT will harass the traders, and corruption will rise. We do not mind paying tax to the government, but then we believe that there should be a single window tax collection centre rather than introducing a new tax every year.” Other traders present at the maidan said that although they might consider shifting their business base to another state to avoid the burden of LBT, their employees would suffer. “Besides if all traders move to another city then Maharashtra’s progress will also be affected,” added Jawahar C Bhansali, from MB Sugars & Pharmaceuticals Ltd, who employs around 200 workers.
Viren Shah, president, Federation of Retailers Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA), said that mostly plywood and hardware retail stores in the city remained closed yesterday. “We are definitely in support of FAM. Considering the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan’s meeting with FAM was unsuccessful yesterday, we have decided to begin our indefinite strike on May 6 instead of May 8 as was planned earlier. Traders are extremely agitated. Everything from accessories to restaurants is expected to remain shut.”
Eleven traders from Mumbai, including FAM president Mohan Gurnani have been fasting since May 2. Traders from across Maharashtra also came to Azad Maidan to show their support. Seven hundred members from the Lalbaug Vyapari Association alone had shut their shops. Girish Roopani, secretary of the association, said, “LBT will be a major obstacle for traders. In fact, as retailers we will have to involve ourselves in intricacies rather than focusing on ways of bettering our business.”