By Amiya Kumar Kushwaha
New Delhi, (IANS) Wholesale cloth shops wore a deserted look in the national capital on Friday as textile merchants kept their shutters down for the fourth consecutive day in protest against the Goods and Services Tax (GST), set to roll out from Friday midnight.
In all, around 50,000 wholesale cloth shops remained shut in the national capital this week.
Thousands of cloth merchants, who were not happy with the government’s decision, gathered at Chandni Chowk here and raised their voice against the GST.
However, their apprehensions are not about increased taxes or losses but the intricacies of the new taxation regime, which they find difficult to understand.
“We are not afraid of new tax system (GST)…we are afraid of its complicated system,” Dinesh Jain, Treasurer of Katra Dulia Committee, an association of wholesale cloth merchants of Chandni Chowk, told IANS.
“Most of the businessmen dealing with textile do not know even the spelling of computer. They do not know how to use a computer and a large number of them are also not friendly with smartphones,” said cloth merchant Surendra Kumar Gupta, 66, admitting that he is not a tech-savvy person.
Another cloth merchant Ram Krishna Agarwal said that traders are not aware of the GST policy right now, so they do not know how they will deliver goods from Saturday — after the “complicated” GST is rolled out.
He complained that the government has not given enough time to cloth merchants and said that it must educate people and provide proper training to traders regarding the GST before implementing it.
“Three things are described as essential commodities — food, cloth and house. But this government is levying tax on cloth, which in my opinion is against the interest of 35 crore people, who are directly or indirectly associated with the cloth trade,” Agarwal said.
Jain was unable to make out that “when we are paying income tax regularly, where was the need to slap GST on garments?”
Agarwal apprehended that the traders could get trapped between touts and lawyers after the GST rollout.
President of Delhi Hindustani Mercantile Association, an association of wholesale cloth traders in the national capital, Arun Kumar Singhania, told IANS that they held a nationwide strike this week to press for exemption from the GST, but the central government did not accept their demand.
“Now, we are organising a meeting on Saturday to decide our future course of action,” Singhania said.
The Vice President of the Delhi Hindustani Mercantile Association, Shri Bhagwan Bansal, demanded exemption from GST for cloth traders for a year.
“Textile should be exempted under GST for at least one year and traders should be trained during that period on the new taxation system,” he said.