Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 12:
The Odisha government has decided to constitute a state level purchase committee for procurement of pulses in view of the ongoing strike by Federation of All Odisha Traders Association (FAOTA) which has stopped import of pulses, wheat and wheat products from outside states demanding waiver of five percent VAT on these products.
The state government will be drawing up an action plan for two months to meet the situation arising out of the strike by the traders in the state.
A high level meeting chaired by Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare minister Sanjay Dasburma held at the state secretariat yesterday apart from the above mentioned decisions decided to float tenders for procurement of 10,000 tonnes of pulses in the first phase which would be made available to the public across the state through 20,000 fair price shops.
The state government has directed all district collectors to be on the alert against black marketers and hoarders and tightening of enforcement measures.
On the other hand, the FAOTA at its steering committee meeting held here today decided to continue with its agitation, the Federation however, said that it was open to discussions with the state government. The Federation’s strike which commenced from April 9 entered its fourth day today.
While Dasburma and Finance minister Pradip Amat had appealed to the traders’ body for withdrawing from their agitation in the greater interest of the consumers of the state yesterday, the latter had made it clear that the proposal made by the traders’ body for introduction of 1 per cent entry tax in lieu of 5 per cent VAT is not possible at this juncture.
Since the matter of imposition of entry tax on agricultural products was pending before the Supreme Court, it was not possible to fulfil the traders’ demand, Amat said on Saturday.
Stating that there was no Entry Tax on Agriculture produces in Odisha at present, Amat said the constitutional validity of the Entry Tax was challenged and is pending before the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court and the state has filed an affidavit to maintain status-quo.
While informing that Entry Tax and VAT would be subsumed in the proposed GST and a uniform tax rate would be in force throughout the country Amat added “Entry tax cannot be levied on dal and pulses at this stage.”
He had pointed out that as per the recommendation of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers, four per cent VAT was levied on dal, pulses and wheat products.
“Again on the recommendation of the Empowered committee, five per cent VAT instead of four percent is being levied from April 1, 2012. Neighbouring states like West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have not implemented the recommendation of the Empowered Committee and exempted dal, pulses and wheat products, which resulted in the alleged trade diversion,” Amat clarified.