Won't call off strike, but ready for alternate tax: Jewellers

Gold traders and jewellers, whose pan-India strike continued for the 17th day on Friday, said they would not call off their indefinite strike till the government rolls back one per cent excise duty, but expressed willingness to pay tax in some other form. 

"We will continue this strike indefinitely as we have no other recourse. If we open our shops, we have to comply with the excise tax, which we will bring back inspector raj and 90 per cent of the industry will be affected," All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation (GJF) Director Ashok Minawala told reporters here.

He said, the industry is not tax shy as they pay huge duty of around Rs 30,000 crore every year.

"We are ready to pay the tax, which the government wants to generate through the excise, in some other alternate format," he added. 

He said, the intention of Finance Minister may be good, but it (excise duty imposition) is not notified, and also the procedure to amend the Excise Act accordingly is not initiated. Therefore, the excise field officers will have the liberty to visit shops, with powers to seize goods and arrest.

"In the era of ease doing business, these controls need to be done away with. Hence, the assurance of the Finance Minister is not acceptable by the industry," he said.

Minawala further said the statement by the Finance Minister that the imposition of excise duty is essential to comply with GST is misleading as there are over 300 items that are not under excise and VAT and still will be able to migrate
into GST.

"It is not necessary to bring jewellery industry into the Excise Duty Act to migrate to GST," he pointed out.

In 2005 and 2012, the government had realised that excise duty is impractical for the gems and jewellery industry, which employs 4.5 million skilled workers, and rolled back the proposal.

"We are sure that this government, which was in opposition understood our plight then," he said.

Most jewellery shops and establishments in the country have been on strike since March 2 after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget announced one per cent excise duty on non-silver jewellery.

Over 358 associations affiliated with GJF, consisting of over three lakh manufacturers, retailers, wholesalers and artisans related to the trade are on strike. 

The size of the gems and jewellery industry has grown to 3.15 lakh crore and contributes 3.5 per cent to the GDP
even as it is still an unorganised sector.

The government receives revenue of around Rs 31,000 crore by way of Import Duty, VAT, and LBT apart from income tax from the dealers, Minawala said.

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