The Confederation of All India Traders’s (CAIT) call for a nationwide shutdown over rising fuel prices, the Goods and Services Tax, and the new E-Way bill on Friday saw support from 40,000 trade associations from across the country.

The trader’s body said demonstrations were expected to take place across 1,500 cities and towns, also to be joined by the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AITWA), the top body of India’s road transport sector. They will also hold road blockades across India.

The Farmers’ unions, agitating against the three contentious agricultural laws since November 2020, have also expressed their solidarity with the nationwide protests.

On Thursday, CAIT tweeted, “Harassed by the complicated GST rules, eight crore traders and 1 lakh transporters will join Bharat Bandh today as a mark of protest against distorted GST.” They demanded the simplification of the tax. In yet another Twitter post they wrote, “The tax is neither ‘good’ nor ‘simple’.”

Additionally, commercial markets are likely to remain shut as the All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation (AICPDF), representative body of four lakh distributors, has also joined the shutdown.

AITWA has also demanded the scrapping of the “regressive” e-way rules which they state “mandates impractical compliance from transporters.” E-Way bill is a permit that is associated with the movement of goods.

AITWA said that according to the E-Way Bill, the sender of goods will have to fill their goods detail on an online portal, in part A. The the transporter needs to update the vehicle number in part B. Then the transporter has to cover the total journey of 200 km per day from the consigner place to the consignee place as per the pin code calculated at the shortest distance. This according to them is practically not possible due to factors like Sunday/holiday, accident, part load consolidation, hub and spoke, congestion en-route or at the unloading place, driver personal issues, etc.

The transporters body stated that they are being made into “scapegoats” by tax officials adding, “Any error or expiry of e way bill due to any mistake whatsoever is heavily and obnoxiously penalised to 200 percent of the tax value, or 100 percent of the invoice value under Section 129 of CGST Act, 2017 even when there is no tax loss to Government.”

In a statement, the National President of AITWA Mahendra Arya said, “Transporters will stop all their operation and will park their vehicles as a symbolic protest. All customers will be approached by transport companies not to book or load any goods on February 26th, 2021.”

Parveen Khandelwal- CAIT’s secretary-general had said that almost 950 amendments have been made so far to the GST rules in the last four years. Issues relating to the glitches in the GST portal and the continuous increase in compliance burden are the major lacunae in the tax regime.

Meanwhile, this first nationwide shutdown over the issue, all amid the rising fuel prices has led to the Government of India being targeted by the opposition parties.

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