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Monday, May 6, 2013

Indefinite stir over LBT to hit supplies

Mumbai: The availability of groceries and routine supplies will be badly hit over the next few days with around one lakh small retailers joining an indefinite bandh on Monday to protest the levy of local body tax (LBT). However, essential services like drugstores, milk supply and newspapers will not be impacted. Malls are expected to function normally as well. 

    Retailers say the shutdown will continue until the government addresses their concerns over LBT. At a press meet on Monday, the chief minister said "segment of traders was misleading the public" about the new tax. He alleged that the gold and silver traders were at the forefront of the stir. 
    The new tax that replaces octroi is being introduced in Mumbai from October 1 and will apply to small and big businessmen who earn over Rs 3 lakh per annum. It has already been implemented in 19 corporations statewide since 2010, with Navi Mumbai and Thane having come under its ambit on April 1 this year. Traders say they are not unwilling to pay the tax, but fear harassment by civic officials who can inspect their account books at any time. On Monday, closure of shops was reported across south Mumbai from Fort to Kemps Corner, Dadar-Matunga and from Bandra to Dahisar. Retailers in Ghatkopar and Chembur 
will join the stir from Wednesday. 
    At Marine Drive, the police had to resort to a mild baton charge against protesters on Monday. Viren Shah of the Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association said, "Such overwhelming support for the anti-LBT bandh is unprecedented. It shows that the fear of harassment is widespread." 

    Citing an instance, he narrated how civic officials in Vasai had asked shopkeepers to produce bills for vada pav, tea and puja items. "When they were unable to show receipts, they were slapped with 20% LBT or asked to pay Rs 3,000-5,000 and settle the matter," Shah said. 
    In Saamna, the Shiv Sena slammed the CM for going ahead with LBT. 

BMC official alleges threat from octroi agents 
akarand Narwekar, chairman of the BMC's law, revenue and general purpose committee, has alleged that octroi agents had threatened him with dire consequences if he did not "turn a blind eye to irregularities at the Vashi check-post". He has written to civic chief Sitaram Kunte and police commissioner Satyapal Singh. On Saturday, two octroi agents allegedly threatened Narwekar at his office following his surprise visit to the check-post at 4am on May 1. On spotting some cargo-laden vehicles not paying octroi, he alerted additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota. "I've heard that a letter has been sent to the civic chief. I'll give my explanation in writing after I receive it," Jalota told TOI. TNN


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