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By A Newsman

Kolkata, 21 August: NEARLY 1-lakh sweetmeat sellers all over Bengal have kept their shutters down today demanding a complete roll-back of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed by the Centre on their products.

The 24-hours strike that began at 6 am this morning has evoked a huge impact with people not being able to buy sweetmeats, including Rosogolla. The scenario in Kolkata and the districts is more or less same.

RK Pal, general secretary of the Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabsayee Samity, which has called the strike, said that if the Centre does not relent even after this, they would go for a hunger-strike at RR Avenue in Kolkata from 24-26 August.

“Barring barely 5-10 per cent big sellers, rest of the sweetmeat sellers are micro business entities each run by hardly a team of two-three persons. It is impossible for them to charge GST from buyers and keep a record of that,” Pal said.

He said that considering that sweetmeats are perishable products, and in Bengal the sellers are marginal entities, the Centre did not impose VAT on sweetmeats earlier.

“Even during Jyoti Basu’s chief ministership, sales tax was rolled back from all kinds of sweetmeats. Before levying GST on sweetmeats, Centre should have studied the logic for such relaxation in the past. Now, the situation has become such that if GST is not rolled back, sweetshop sellers will eventually have to close down their businesses,” said Pal.

The Samity has today sent e-mails to the Prime Minister and the Union finance minister informing about the strike and requesting rolling back the GST. About a fortnight ago, it had taken out a protest rally in Kolkata and had served a memorandum to Governor KN Tripathi over the demand.

Centre has imposed a 5 per cent GST on all types of sweets and 12 per cent on snacks. However, if these items are served in an air-conditioned shop, then a buyer shall have to pay 18 per cent GST.