Calcutta will wake up to a 10-day wholesale bazaar bandh starting Wednesday, with mixed signals about its impact on the consumer.
Several traders' lobbies have called the strike in the wholesale market to protest the introduction of value-added tax (VAT).
'The strike will be limited to wholesalers and not include wholesaler-cum-retailers or retailers. We don't want the consumer to face any difficulty,' said Mahesh Kumar Singhania, spokesperson for the Federation of West Bengal Trade Associations
Panic buying on bandh-eve was restricted to a few pockets as even at the Posta market, Tuesday trading remained normal. Daily supplies of essentials would not be affected, assured organisers of the bandh.
The bandh, called throughout India from April 20 to April 29, is expected to set trading in Calcutta and rest of the districts back by at least Rs 8,000 crore.
It will hit an estimated 40 lakh traders in the city, across more than two dozen markets. Wholesale markets at Posta, Belgachhia, Rajakatra, Armenian Street and Bagri Market will remain shut. But markets at Sealdah will not participate in the bandh, sources said.
A section of the city's business community, especially retailers, expressed apprehension over the bandh fuelling the black market, though the traders' federation assured a crackdown on such unscrupulous wholesalers.
'Whenever there is a strike, some wholesalers try to make a fast buck by pushing up prices,' said Rajesh Gupta, a retailer of grocery products at Bowbazar.
Finance minister Asim Dasgupta warned of stern action against any unfair trade practices during the wholesale market strike.
'The government will keep a watch on the situation over the next few days and action will be taken in case of an artificial scarcity or black-marketing,' said Dasgupta, urging the traders' associations to come to the talks table.
The finance minister asked consumers facing bandh-related trouble to alert the government via the commercial tax commissioner's office.