Trade grinds to a halt in Mumbai

Mumbai, May 6 (IANS) All business and trading activity ground to a halt in the country’s commercial capital Monday as over 1.5 million retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers launched an indefinite strike against the Maharashtra government’s Local Body Tax (LBT) in lieu of octroi.

Neighbourhood retail shops, wholesale trading in clothes, electronics, hardware, metals, cloth, foodgrain, fruit, vegetables and all types of manufacturing activities in Mumbai were paralysed since morning, inconveniencing millions of customers.

“Over a million retailers have wholeheartedly joined the strike from today (Monday), besides another half a million-plus wholesalers and traders in Mumbai, barring certain essentials like pharmacies,” Federation of Retail Traders’ Welfare Association (FRTWA) president Viren Shah told IANS.

The FRTWA has joined its over one million counterparts in the rest of the state, large sections of which have been on regular strike and agitations since April 22, following a call by the Confederation of All India Traders.

“If the state government does not roll back the LBT and revert to octroi, it will mean a loss of around Rs.5 million per day in Mumbai alone,” Shah warned, adding that the losses for the entire state are being tabulated.

“We do not want the LBT under any circumstances. We shall surrender our LBT registration soon if the government does not withdraw it,” an aggressive Shah said.

A petition by a Pune trade body challenging the LBT will come up for hearing before the Supreme Court Tuesday, May 7.

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.

Earlier, the FRTWA had gone on a day’s token strike April 22 in support of octroi, which had received a significant response.

The city Bharatiya Janata Party unit extended support to the strike and urged Maharashtra government to scrap LBT and revert to octroi, according to city unit chief Raj Purohit.

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