In a decision that will come as a big relief to Puneites,traders protesting against Local Body Tax (LBT) have decided to suspend their strike for now. Shops,which remained shut for the past six days,will open on Sunday. On Saturday evening,shops started opening shutters.
The decision was arrived at after a stormy meeting at the office of Saraf Association at Vijay Talkies Chowk, and later announced by leaders of the Federation of Traders Unions of Pune. They,however,said that the strike will be re-launched if the meeting with chief minister on Monday failed to bear fruit.
The CM has invited us for a meeting at 10 am on Monday in Mumbai. Our sources in the Mantralaya have told us that our demands are being considered sympathetically and its likely that a favourable decision would be taken. We have been told that after this meeting,the chief minister would announce the decision in the Assembly. After the decision is announced,we will hold another meeting to decide on our next course of action, said Fattehchand Ranka,treasurer of the Federation.
He said that the traders body is unhappy with several unjust provisions in the LBT,particularly the inclusion of small traders who do not import goods and compulsion to maintain accounts for each and every sale.
After the CM gave us his word to consider our demands,we have decided to suspend the strike,keeping in mind the inconvenience it has caused the common man. All the shops will open on Sunday morning, said Ranka.
However,not all traders are united on their decision to call off the stir. Gajanan Babar,MP,who is leading the protest in Pimpri-Chinchwad said they have not withdrawn the strike,but have stayed their protest.
If we are not satisfied with the discussions with the chief minister in Mumbai,we will re-launch the strike. In the meantime,we dont want the citizens to suffer,so we have asked shopkeepers to open their shops right away, he said.
Babar said they have been told that the chief minister will make an important announcement in the state legislature,regarding LBT on Monday. We are told that the CM cant make such an announcement outside the legislature,since the House is in session, he said.
From April 1,acting on a state government direction,the Pune Municipal Corporation and the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation brought LBT into effect after abolishing octroi. Traders unions launched an indefinite strike the same day,demanding that LBT be scrapped. The traders went ahead with the strike despite Bombay High Court earlier rejecting their plea against LBT.
Traders associations in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad have decided to open shops on Sunday.
Division in ranks over suspension decision
There was high drama at the meeting of Federation of the Traders Union on Saturday,when the Federation leaders decided to suspend the indefinite strike,apparently without taking into confidence all its members.
A group of traders started shouting slogans against the Federation office-bearers,claiming that most traders were in favour of continuing the strike until all their demands are met.
However,Ranka maintained that as many as 80 per cent of the traders unions in the city and PCMC were of the opinion that the strike should be suspended as citizens cant be held to ransom for the wish of 20 per cent people. However,traders were not ready to listen and the commotion continued.
At this point,Ranka and other office-bearers threatened that they would give up their positions and suggested that all future talks with the government be held by those in favour of the strike. With this,a group of traders,who had objected to the decision to suspend the strike,was forced to leave the meeting. The remaining traders,who supported the suspension decision,promised to go back to business and wait for the meeting with the chief minister,
promising to resume the agitation if the outcome did not turn out positively for them.