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Two-day trade bandh cry over VAT

The majority of shops will remain closed on Monday in the city and the districts when traders go on a 48-hour bandh, protesting the introduction of value-added tax (VAT). Traders have also decided to form a human chain from the Shyambazar five-point crossing to Raj Bhavan for an hour on Monday.

“We have called the 48-hour strike to pressurise the government to shelve the VAT,” said T.N. Trivedi, president of Joint Committee of West Bengal Trade Association, on Saturday. The VAT Bill was passed in the Assembly on Thursday and is awaiting Governor Viren J. Shah’s nod.

Trivedi said his association would go for an indefinite strike in future if the two-day bandh failed to evoke “favourable response” from the government. “The VAT will be an additional financial burden on traders. This will ultimately affect the common people as prices of commodities will soar. We are in favour of a simplified sales tax. The VAT structure is a very complicated one,” he added.

Medicine shops and other emergency stores will remain open during the strike.

Association spokesman M.L. Khaitan said several memoranda had been submitted to finance minister Asim Dasgupta, but to no effect. “Though the government recently met a handful of traders in the city, we were not given a chance to speak. We have also written to the Centre against the VAT,’’ Khaitan added. However, during the presentation of the VAT Bill, the finance minister told the Assembly that he had discussed the issue with trade organisations before finalising the Bill.

A delegation from the traders’ body will soon call on Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee and Union finance minister Jaswant Singh to seek their intervention in scrapping the VAT, Khaitan added.

nBody found: The headless body of a man was recovered from Pulin Phatik Lane in the Tangra police station area on Saturday. The body was stashed inside a gunny bag and dumped in a vat, police said. The victim is yet to be identified.

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