Odisha traders launch stir against VAT

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Bhubaneswar, April 2: State government Friday braced to tackle the situation likely to arise out of the threat of the Federation of Traders’ Association of Odisha ( FAOTA) to stop procuring essential commodities in protest against imposition of five per cent Value Added Tax.

The FAOTA had on Thursday threatened to go ahead with their agitation despite a request from the Food Supply and Consumer Welfare Minister Sanjay Dasburma.

The traders’ body said the imposition of VAT on pulses and pulse products were unwarranted.

The State government has formed a Task Force under the chairmanship of Principal Secretary Madhusudan Padhi to tackle the situation and procure pulses from outside to meet the demand.

The prices of food items in the State is likely to go up significantly in the wake of the traders’ deciding to stop import of such items from other states after April 1.

The traders’ body has been demanding exemption of five per cent value added tax (VAT) imposed by the State government on food items like pulses, wheat, edible oil, wheat products and others.

“We have been demanding exemption of VAT for the benefit of more than 4 crore people of the State and growth of all traders across the State,” FAOTA Secretary Sudhakar Panda has claimed.

While 25 of 29 states in the country are not levying VAT on pulses, wheat and other food items, the Odisha government is imposing it. It is the consumers who are bearing the brunt, he said.

He alleged that the State government had assured us on March 26 to bring down the tax on pulses to 1 per cent from 5 per cent and to discuss the tax rate on other essential commodities.

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But, on Wednesday meeting, it was in no mood to listen to us and tried to delay things, Panda added.

Notably, the traders are up in arms against the State government which has imposed 5 pc VAT on such items and at the same time has completely failed to arrest illegal import of these items from neighbouring States like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhatisgarh and Andhra Pradesh where this tax structure is not there.

State Assembly was stalled during the pre-lunch session on Thursday as the opposition Congress created a ruckus in the House demanding the Speaker’s ruling over exemption the Value Added Tax (VAT) on food items.

 Dasburma who reviewed the situation in the backdrop of the strike call given by traders’ union on Thursday with chief secretary AP Padhi and other senior officials at the State Secretariat here had said that the government will discuss the matter in this connection after the assembly session.

He had assured the people that there was enough quantity of pulses and pulses variants in stock in State.

He said the government has also discussed with National Electronic Marketing Limited to ensure supply of pulses to the State.

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