Anti-GST protests are gaining momentum in different parts of the country. The protests were carried out mainly by traders, whose livelihoods are being threatened by the new Goods and Service Tax. The situation in Gujarat, the heartland of BJP, is not different either.
In Gujarat, textile traders from Ahmedabad and Surat are on indefinite strike in protest against the 5% GST on textiles. Traders are demanding an exemption for the industry for at least one year, until they understand and are in position to follow the new rules.
On Saturday afternoon, a massive rally was taken out by textile traders to protest against the GST on Man Made Fibre (MMF). Carrying placards that read “GST Hatao, Vyapar Bachao” (Remove GST, Save business), protesters walked silently for three-kilo meters through the city’s main textile market.
According to Gaurav Shrimali, convener of GST Sangharsh Samiti, over one lakh people took part in the march. He said that the protest will continue until the government accepts their demand to roll back the 5% GST.
The traders have been agitating since June 15th, under GST Sangharsh Samiti. The Sangharsh Samiti members met union minister of state for road transport and highways, Mansukh Mandaviya. In the meeting, the minister assured the traders that he would take their questions to the GST Council. The minister, however, ruled out exempting MMF from the 5% GST.
Tarachand Kasat, Surat GST Sangharsh Samithi president, said, “The credit goes to the youth brigade wing people of textile traders. The indefinite strike called by textile traders will continue in coming days till our demands are meted out. The textile traders of Delhi and other parts of the country have also supported Surat traders and they have also kept their shops closed. We have made representations to the district collector and hope that Central Government would come out with some possible solution or else in coming days we will also give some shocking programs in a peaceful way”.
Textile traders in Ahmedabad were also on an indefinite strike since Monday to exert pressure on the government. The strike is led by traders of three major markets in the city, including Maskati Cloth Market Association, New Cloth Market, and Panchkuva Cloth Market.
“5% GST on cloth is not acceptable to anyone who is in the textile business. To raise our voice against this tax, all the textile markets in the city will go on indefinite strike from tomorrow, and traders will refrain from any kind of transaction,” the joint statement said.
Organising kite flying festival on Sabarmati riverfront, people associated with the Kite Manufacturers Association also registered their protest against 5% GST on the kite making industry.
“We have organised this kite flying festival to register our protest against 5% GST imposed on us. Earlier, there was no tax on kite making. Most people who make kites are illiterate and do not understand anything about tax structure. We want the government to revoke GST, otherwise, we will have to shut our business,” Nasruddin, a kite maker, said.
Earlier, Diamond merchants in India's diamond production hub Surat observed a day bandh over the same demand, the withdrawal of the GST. They had marked their protest against the 18 percent tax levied by the GST council, in addition to a three percent charge on polished diamonds.
The ongoing demonstrations are the clear indicators of the growing discontent of the people towards GST.