Traders Reject Financial Choreography of Nitish

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The state which just crossed over the assembly election has been witnessing agitation all around and most interestingly, none of them is for political reasons. The state witnessed the closure of shops frequently, this fortnight against the coercive revenue generating measures of the government.

It is well known that the Department of Commercial Taxes in Bihar came under immense pressure to search ways to make a hopping Rs 4,000 crore annually, which it would lose as Nitish Kumar makes Bihar a liquor free state from April 1st.

Khetan Super Market, the textile center of Bihar, witnessed Gandhigiri on Tuesday. Some 300 odd textile traders wearing typical Gandhian cap having rose in hand, opposed the VAT on clothes. It is well known that textile traders are on agitation against the imposition of VAT on clothes imposed for the first time in Independent India.

Some 100 meters away Homeopathic medicine shop owners assembled and chanted slogans against the government. They went on strike on 4th February when a team of drug controllers raided and sealed three shops in Sabzibagh area in an inappropriate manner.

In an aftermath, hundreds of shop owners voluntarily closed their shops and joined the agitation at the temple building next to Birla Mandir at Sabzibagh. It is unethical to raid the shops and sealed them without any set of rules, says Dawood Ali, President, Bihar Rajya Homeopathic Sangh. Anyhow the pressure worked and the government had to release the seal later on Tuesday. But a six day closure has approximately hampered a business of more than one crore rupees.

On Tuesday alone, Exhibition Road-Bhattacharya Road crossing, the busiest commercial space of the city, was deserted. Some 300 odd shops were closed and business owners sat on dharna demanding rollback of the increased VAT. Across the city more than ten thousand automobile parts' traders went on a one-day strike against increasing VAT rates on spare parts. Though the agitation was limited to the traders of two-and-three wheelers, the impact was felt strongly as the capital alone witnesses 3.32 lakh two-wheelers and 1.10 lakh three-wheelers plying on the city roads.

Hanuman Sahay Goyal, President of the Patna Scooter Traders Association, expressed his grudges in the following way: "The government is on exploitation mode. Jharkhand and West Bengal, the two neighboring states, got just 5 percent VAT on automobile spares. We are in touch with traders who deal in spares of four wheelers and commercial vehicles as well. We are planning to broaden and strengthen our agitation against the rise in VAT."

Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has a very clear reaction on the issue of coercive method of generating revenue.

"After agriculture Bihar’s economy depends on trade. The VAT rates in Bihar need to be the lowest in the country so that at least we could be converted into a trading hub," says Kamal Shahi, Resident Director, ICC.

"Increment in VAT rates will lead to a sudden decrease in trade volume, margin, and profitability. Furthermore, non-registered traders would bring products illegally from neighboring states like West Bengal and Jharkhand where VAT is exempted on clothes and other products," he added.

"The government should control wasteful non-plan expenditure first. Nitish Ji needs to understand the basic difference between tax effort by the government and the capacity of the people and stakeholder to pay it. Otherwise his financial choreography will lead the state in financial mess", rebukes Satyajit Singh, Chairman, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industries (Bihar).

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