It is now more than a month since the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on 1st July.The days leading up to and following it witnessed country wide protests against its imposition. Shops and workshops across several sectors downed their shutters. Several unions joined in the protests. Among them, the Bharatiya Udyog Vyapar Mandal, consisting of 17,000 big and medium traders’ associations called for a daylong Bharat Bandh. Protests had sprung up in Ahmedabad two days before the introduction of the GST, as close to 50,000 textile dealers staged a bandh. This wave was carried through in Surat, by the diamond as well as the textile traders. It was reported that nearly 3,00,000 traders from Gujarat joined the bandh.
|Mass demonstration of traders and workers in Surat|
From Surat to Erode and from Amritsar to Ichalakaranji, the protests were widespread and brought manufacturing in these towns almost to a halt. Close to 10,00,000 looms fell silent when the protests over various aspects of the GST began in Surat. The Textile GST Sangharsh Samiti there called for an indefinite bandh on 2nd July in the city's buzzing textiles market, one of the largest in the country.Weavers too went on strike for over a week. “The GST will add nothing less than 25 per cent taxes on our produce against the existing zero percentage,” they asserted.
In Tamilnadu, handloom units, powerlooms, dyeing, packing and processing units in the textile towns of Erode, Karur, Namakkal, Tiruppur, Palladam, Somanur and Coimbatore protested the imposition of GST on various stages of textile manufacturing.Textile traders in Telangana sought exemption from the GST's purview.
Other than textiles, significant protests were registered in the Plywood industry across Delhi-NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakand, Rajasthan and Bihar.
Across sectors, the small and medium enterprises (SME) have been in the forefront of the protest against the new regime of indirect taxation, on the grounds that the rates on many categories are excessive, and the process is extremely complicated. They fear that the GST is going to undermine the viability of their businesses.
On 5th August, the GST Council met and announced some moves that would soften the impact on the textile and agricultural sector.
However, on the whole, it is clear that GST will adversely impact millions employed in numerous sectors of industry and trade. While the government’s propaganda has been that prices of all goods across the board will fall, there are contradictory reports in the trade and business papers as to how it would really affect the prices of mass consumption goods.