Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 9:
The Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA) today began its indefinite strike stopping import of pulses, wheat and wheat products from outside states to press its demand for waiver of five percent Value Added Tax (VAT) on these products 90% of which comes from outside the state.
The traders’ body said that the state had enough stocks of these products to last for three days. If the government fails to take a decision soon and supplies are not normalized, it may lead to a crisis in the supply of these items in the state in the next one week.
“We have completely stopped import of these items. This will continue for an indefinite period. Our next step depends on the attitude of the state government. The future course of our agitation and what shape it’s going to take all now depends on the next move of the government,” said Sudhakar Panda, general secretary of the FAOTA.
Commenting on the availability of these products in the state, Panda said that stocks available with the traders in the state will last for five to seven days on normal buying pattern of the consumers. But if consumers resort to panic buying, as it happens in such cases, the stocks will not last for more than three days and its effect will be felt in the market.
On the other hand, Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Sanjay Dasburma appealed to the traders today to allow some more time to the government to take a decision on the matter.
“I strongly believe that the traders’ body will understand the sense of the government on the matter and understand that the government requires some more time to take a decision on the issue. I would like to request the office bearers of the traders’ body to come forward for discussion with the government in a constructive manner in the interest of the consumers of the state. The government would also like to take them into confidence on the government’s current revenue earnings. I am hopeful that the traders’ body will come forward and join the government for discussions. Keeping in view the financial strain on the consumer of the state it is going to impose, I would appeal to the traders’ body to withdraw their strike,” he said.
Informing on the current scenario following the strike, the minister said: “As of now there is no crisis of these goods in the market. Prices of pulses like arhar, moong and of other varieties are stable in the market. There is nothing to panic at present.”
Traders in the state had gone for a two-day strike in December last yeae and had withdrawn their strike on a written assurance from the Commissioner of Commercial Taxes to look into the matter in the new fiscal.
The traders’ body is of the contention that these products are free from VAT in 24 states while the VAT rate of five percent on these items is the highest in the country. This, the federation pointed out, had led to black marketing of these products by unscrupulous traders and a consequent rise in their prices disadvantaging both consumers and genuine traders of the state. The traders have been alleging that only unscrupulous traders and corrupt officials are flourishing in the present system while the state’s exchequer has been losing heavily on its earnings.