Tax stalement continues in Maharashtra, traders on strike

Mumbai, May 8 (IANS) A large number of retailers, wholesellers and manufacturers in Mumbai remained on strike for the third day Wednesday and their counterparts in Thane, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad them as the stalemate over Local Body Tax (LBT) in Maharashtra continued as the state government did not give in to their demand.

A delegation of Federation of Associations of Manufacturers (FAM) led by its president Mohan Gurnani also met Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray to solicit intervention to resolve the issue.

“Thackeray has completely supported our demands, but at the same time he has requested that the common man should not be inconvenienced by our agitation,” Gurnani told IANS after the meeting.

LBT, which replaced the traditional octroi in the various municipalities in the state, is an account-based cess collection for every raw material used or imported into the city limits by all businesses, traders and manufacturers.

While it has already been implemented in most parts of Maharashtra from April 1, it is due to be imposed in Mumbai from Oct 1 this year.

Meanwhile, around a dozen persons, including president of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association Viren Shah was arrested briefly by the police for forcing shopkeepers in south Mumbai to down shutters in support of the strike.

The FAM Tuesday sought support from Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and will meet Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athawale Thursday in the matter.

The Nationalist Congress Party state president Madhukarro Pichad and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar have urged the Maharashtra government to set up a committee to examine the grievances of the traders vis-a-vis LBT.

“The business community apprehends that LBT may be yet another form of inspector raj which will harass them, their doubts must be cleared,” the NCP said in a statement last night.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Wednesday appealed to the trading community and others to “stop misleading” people on LBT and reiterated that its implementation would be decided by the legislature.

“The BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation had agreed to implement LBT as an alternative to Octroi and even made a budgetary provision for it. The traders, by suddenly opposing it are holding people at ransom,” Chavan said in a statement here this evening.

He pointed out that the BMC, after considering the views of all political parties had said that LBT would help enhance the business-friendly image of Mumbai.

“LBT is not yet implemented in Mumbai as it would require making certain legal provisions which shall be done in the legislature. The government will move forward after discussing it with traders’ associations. But, the traders should not harass the people and work towards an amicable solution,” Chavan appealed.

Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee President Manikrao Thakre said that the party was fully behind Chavan over the LBT issue.

“The CM must present the government’s side and then take a decision which is in the interest of all concerned. Whatever be the decision, the party shall support it,” Thakre said.

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