Bharat Bandh: An all-India shutdown has been called by traders' body CAIT.
A nationwide shutdown has been called by top traders' body - the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) - over rising fuel prices, the Goods and Services Tax and the new e-Way bill, a permit associated with the movement of goods. Around 40,000 trade associations have extended their support to the shutdown call, protesters have said.
Demonstrations are expected to take place across 1,500 towns and cities, the association said. The All India Transporters Welfare Association - top body of India's road transport sector - will also join the protest and hold road blockades across the country.
Farmers' unions, which have been agitating against the three contentious agricultural laws, have also expressed solidarity.
"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," the CAIT said in a tweet last night, demanding simplification of the tax. "The tax is neither 'good' nor 'simple'," it said in one of the posts on Twitter.
Commercial markets are also likely to remain shut as the All India Consumer Products Distributors Federation - the representative body of four lakh distributors - has also joined the shutdown.
Transporters body AITWA has demanded scrapping of "regressive" e-way rules, which it says "mandates impractical compliance from transporters".
"The consignor or sender of goods have to fill their goods detail on online portal, in part A and the transporter have to update the vehicle no in part B. Transporters have to cover the total journey @ 200 km/day, from consignor place to consignee place as per pin code calculated at shortest distance. This is practically not possible due to many factors such as Sunday/holiday ,accident, part load consolidation, hub and spoke, congestion en-route or at unloading place, driver personal issue and many others."
Stressing that the transporters are "being made scapegoats by tax officials", the AITWA has further said: "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."
"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," said Mahendra Arya, National President AITWA, in a statement.
Last week, CAIT's secretary-general Praveen Khandelwal said "almost 950 amendments have been made so far to GST rules in the past four years and issues related to glitches in the GST portal and the continuous increase in compliance burden are the major lacunae in the tax regime".
Amid rising fuel prices, the government is already being targeted by the opposition parties. This is first nationwide shutdown over the issue.