Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is planning to launch a nationwide movement against the Goods and Services Tax (GST), roping in small and micro traders across the country who she considers as the worst hit. She may chose New Delhi or Gujarat as the starting point of her agitation, said sources. She discussed the plan with an extended core committee meeting on Wednesday, asking party leaders to organise small and micro traders across the country for the movement. The TMC chief had previously stated that while she is principally not against GST, she is opposed to the manner in which it has been hurriedly imposed in the country.
“We have been asked to get in touch with associations of small and micro traders all over India, even in states where we have a small presence or where we do not have. There will be demonstrations, rallies and other forms of protest. So far the agitation has been sporadic, now we want to organise a mass movement,” said a senior TMC leader close to the chief minister. The TMC may also call in opposition parties including Congress to share the stage during the movement.
“The small and micro traders are facing a lot of problems after the GST rollout on July 1. The procurement of special software comes at an additional cost and a person has to be appointed to manage it. Many are unable to enroll themselves because the system keeps on crashing,” said a state Cabinet minister. “Then there is the issue of multiple GST rates like in the case of sweetmeat traders where they find the rates confusing. In Bengal, sweatmeat traders have already initiated a agitation,” the TMC leader said.
Mamata is exploring the option of starting the movement from Gujarat as it which would get national attention, being the home turf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said sources. She has already asked party leaders to mull over the possibility.
“Even in BJP ruled states like Gujarat, traders are unhappy over GST. What is wrong if we start our movement from Gujarat? We are looking into the possibility. It will send a clear message to all that we are not scared of anyone or any party,” said a senior Trinamool Congress leader. On Wednesday, Mamata had said, “We were never against GST. We are protesting against the hurried implementation of it which has caught many off-guard. We had warned them against this and multiple tax rates. We have information that about 50 per cent of traders have not been able to enroll themselves because of some problem or the other.”
“We just cant sit quiet when people are suffering. We will have to raise this issue within Parliament and hit the streets as well,” she had further said. State Finance minister Amit Mitra too at a seminar on Tuesday had come down heavily on the Centre regarding the implementation of GST. He had spoken about how, “in the interest of small and medium traders”, he had walked out of a GST meeting one month before it was rolled out. “It was an unfortunate, zabardasti (forceful) rollout on July 1. A beta test of GST was conducted on only 200 business houses per state which was a minute fraction of the actual number of business units and even there the failure rate was 30 per cent. Prime Minister took a review three weeks earlier and didn’t he have a clear idea about what the situation was. We were never against GST but insisted that there should have been a proper, planned implementation of it,” Mitra had said.