Hundreds of lottery workers from across Maharashtra under the Lottery Bachao Mahakruti Samiti organised a demonstration at Azad Maidan on Monday to protest against the GST levied on lotteries. The agitators said they want the government to change the tax from the current 28 per cent to the 12 per cent that they used to pay earlier.
“People in the lottery industry, such as lottery owners, retailers and workers, all have come to the protest and this is in no way affiliated to any political party,” said Dhiraj Gawade, an organiser. Snehal Shah, another organiser, said: “Many people across the lottery industry have lost their jobs and sales are down by almost 62 per cent. Everyone in the industry, from computer engineers to those printing media, who print tickets have lost jobs. If the tax is not changed, the industry in Maharashtra is in danger of becoming extinct.”
The organisation said its only demand is for the government to change the tax from the current 28 per cent to 12 per cent that was levied earlier. “This is only the first step. If the government does not listen to our demands, we will sit in front of the Vidhan Sabha and ask every MLA and MP to listen to us. If even that does not work, we will march to Delhi.” said Shah.
Many workers have been affected under the new tax regime and several shop owners have had to shut down their business. Nandkishor Sagar (22) who hails from Aurangabad and used to a run a lottery shop said: “I used to run a shop and fund my studies through it. Because of the tax, my revenue has reduced from Rs10,000 a month to a mere Rs 2,000. It became unsustainable as the revenue had reduced but rentals and wages remained the same. I had to shut down the shop and now, it is becoming difficult to survive.”
Hemant Agarwal, 54, who owns Mangalmurti Lottery Centre in Panvel, sais: “Yes, the revenue is down by 50 per cent. I used to sell my tickets at Rs 10 each but now, it sells at Rs 13. It may seem like a small jump but lottery tickets are not essential goods and they are often bought in bulk, which increases the price to an amount that few want to sp[end.” He added: “I have already had to let one of my employees go. If the situation does not change, it could lead to an more job loss.”
The protesters met Deepak Kesarkar, the Minister of State for Finance and Rural Development, to put forward their demands. Kesarkar said while the state government could not intervene in matters related to GST, it will put forth the demands of the Lottery Bachao Mahakruti Samiti to the central GST Council. The state government has begun a process to start an online lottery system.