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Traders threaten strike on March 15

Guwahati, March 6: The All Assam Traders Association and All Guwahati Traders Association have threatened to call a statewide strike on March 15 if the government did not respond to their repeated demands to roll back the steep hike in labour fees and changes in criteria for acquiring or renewal of trade licences.

Employers and employees engaged in any commercial activity have to get themselves registered with the labour office by paying a fee, which used to be around Rs 100 per year. The same person will now have to pay around Rs 1,000, according to the new rules. The registration is valid for a year and has to be renewed every year.

The hike was effected towards the end of the Tarun Gogoi-led Congress government, which was unseated by the BJP-led coalition in May last year. Changes in criteria for issue and renewal of trade license by the concerned municipal authorities have also been made.

The new rules stipulate that traders have to submit the latest rent receipts issued by the landlord and tax receipt issued to the landlord by the municipal authorities, while applying for a new trade licence or renewal of an existing one.

The general secretary of the All Guwahati Traders Association, Prantosh Roy, said: "The Congress government, towards the end of its tenure, had issued these notifications without any prior intimation to us or any statement in the media. We were shocked on being informed by the labour commissioner's office about the steep hike in labour fees, making it impossible for us to maintain our businesses. We submitted memoranda to the chief minister, finance minister, labour minister, labour commissioner, as well as the deputy commissioner of Kamrup district twice in December last year, praying for a roll-back of the hike.

"We expected to get some response from the government or the district administration, but we were disappointed not to hear from any of them. There was no alternative and our union members decided to launch protests in three phases - first a demonstration at Lakhidhar Bora Khetra on January 18, the second will be held in front of the labour commissioner's office on March 10 and a statewide trade bandh will be observed from 5am to 5pm on March 15," he added.

There are around 52,000 members in the All Guwahati Traders Association and 650,000 members in the All Assam Traders Association. The statewide strike on March 15 will lead to all these traders downing their shutters.

The president of the All Guwahati Traders Association, Naren Deka, said: "We voted for the BJP in the last elections hoping that it will bring about positive changes in the state, but we are bitterly disappointed. The government is pushing organisations towards agitation and protests, which have become a regular phenomenon. We will neither pay the increased dues nor apply for renewal of our trade licence without discussion with a representative of the government."


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