The widespread protest against the introduction of the local body tax (LBT) seems to be getting stronger after traders have received support from associations in Nagpur, Kolhapur and Solapur, as discussed in a meeting held by the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM). To continue the protest, traders and citizens took out a rally which began from Dahisar up to Crawford Market via SV Road. About 450 bikes carried banners of ‘No LBT’ to spread awareness among the general public. Prior intimation was provided to the police headquarters about the action.
“We started our journey from Dahisar. It was a silent protest against LBT. Our main aim was to make people aware of the tax. We were stopped at Lal Baug and Masjid by the police. They created a problem despite being shown a police acknowledgement letter. Eventually, they let us go,” said Ashok Chedda, a member of the Federation of Maharashtra Stationery Manufacturers and Traders Association.
Retailers have also decided to join the protest and will shut down their shops from today, along with big malls. The Bombay Goods Transport Association also threatened to close down from May 10 if there is no positive response from the government. A member of the association, Suresh Yadav, said, “It is not only us who will be affected but also the common man. We are in full support of the protest. Currently, we are supplying goods to Mumbai. However, if the situation does not change, we will stop transporting goods and materials to the city.”
Rail roko as well?
The retail and local area traders in Thane, Bhayander and Dombivli plan to carry out a ‘Rail roko andolan’ where they plan to silently sit on the tracks obstructing trains. Acknowledging this move, Suresh Yadav said, “We are planning to take such a step. We have not yet decided on the details.”
Chief PRO of Western Railway, Sharat Chandrayan, said, “Nothing of this sort has come to our notice. Trains are running as scheduled. In case such a thing happens, we will take help from the state government.” Amid the government- traders tiff, it is the public and the labourers who are suffering. Restaurants have also been shut since the strike began. Traders and wholesalers have taken up responsibility of providing at least two meals to labourers.
“We know that the labourers who work at our shops are suffering due to lack of employment. Therefore, we have decided to provide them food at Nagdevi Street and nearby areas, at our expense. We plan to continue this till we can,” said Mahender Chablani, member of the Federation of Maharashtra Stationery Manufacturing and Traders Association.
Kaushik Gilani, secretary of the Ball Bearing Association said, “We do not have to pay taxes and LBT does not apply to us. However, we think it is unfair to the others who are being burdened by the tax. Therefore, we are extending our support for the protest by shutting down.”