Textile traders in Surat on Monday allegedly pelted stones on police personnel while demonstrating against the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Protesters thronged the Ring Road in Surat in thousands, shouting slogans against the new tax regime, such as “GST hatao, saral tax lao,” (remove GST, bring in simple tax), news agency PTI reported.
“We had to resort to lathi charge after some protesters pelted the policemen with stones, injuring one personnel,” Surat Police Commissioner Satish Sharma was quoted by PTI as saying.
The demonstration was held in view of the indefinite shutdown in the Surat textile market, one of the biggest in the country, by the GST Sangharsh Samiti against new tax rules to be levied on textiles. A five per cent tax has been put on textiles under the new regime.
Alleging that they had not incited any violence and that their demonstration was peaceful, traders claim that authorities were prodded by C R Patil, ruling BJP’s Lok Sabha MP from Surat, who had met with them on Sunday.
Traders said that some of them chose to side with the MP after meeting him, and opened trade despite the call to shut down by the Samiti. “Some traders had yesterday met Patil who asked them to open shops and promised to provide them police security against those who insisted on continuing with the indefinite bandh. The police started beating up the protesting traders even when they were carrying out their protest peacefully,” trader Gaurav Shrimali told PTI.
Speaking out against the police’s handling of the protest, senior Congress leader and RS member Ahmed Patel said on Twitter, “Shocking that police has used brutal force against Surat traders protesting against GST. Govt must reason with them, not suppress them.”
Many of the textile markets in Gujarat remained shut as a majority of the traders do not have GST registration. They hope that the government will find a fix for the tax regime on their wares. Some of the small traders feel that GST impacts their business negatively. They claim that the time window for registration prior to the rollout was too short. Traders have said that the new tax rules should be levied on ready made pieces and not on textile.
(with inputs from agencies)