Kolkata: Nearly 2 lakh sweetshop owners on Monday pulled their shutters down in West Bengal, protesting the imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The traders claimed that the implementation of the GST had hit them badly after the consumers refused to pay higher prices for sweets.
Most of the well-known names in the sweets industry kept their shops shut, and the buyers had a hard time getting sweets for their respective ceremonies.
Speaking to News18, President of Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabsayee Samity (PMBS) Ram Chawrasia said, “It is not possible to follow the GST because the sector is largely unorganized. I would like to request all the concerned ministries to consider our plea, otherwise, it will be difficult to run the business.”
He said, “The entire sweet industry in Bengal is worried over the GST. The government has no idea that most of the traders are doing small businesses and their knowledge about the complicated tax system in zero. We have written to the state Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to exempt our industry from GST.”
So far in Bengal, sweetmeat was not taxed under Value Added Tax (VAT), but from July 1 onward, they have had to bear 5% on Rossogolla, Sandesh, Jal Bhara, Gulab Jamun, Rabri, Kaacha Golla, Makha Sandesh. Shop owners selling sweetmeats coated with chocolate will have to bear 28 % GST while in snacks items like namkeen, bhujia, radhaballavi (stuffed kachori), plain kachori the slab is 12%. For some sweets with Kesar (saffron) and silver coating will fall under the category of 18% to 20%.
General Secretary of PMBS, RK Paul, said, “With no other options, we have decided to go for a one-day strike. In future, we are planning to intensify our movement. Last night we decided to inform all the district unit to follow the strike called by the association.”
He said, “Nearly, 80000 people associated with the industry are badly affected. At least 80 percent sweet meat business is in the informal sector and the main raw materials chenna (cheese) are produced by the informal sector. How will these people maintain a log book, bill book etc. when they don’t have any idea about the tax system.”
They (PMBS) said that most of the suppliers of raw materials are not in a position to provide them with any requisite documents. This led to the tax burden on sweet shop owners.
During the Left Front rule, former finance minister Asim Dasgupta – one of the key architects of the GST – had decided to keep sweets out of GST’s purview saying it was something to do with happiness.