Mumbai traders' strike continues for second day

Mumbai traders' strike continues for second day  Mumbai: Banking activities here remained paralysed and most businesses were shut too Tuesday, day two of the indefinite strike called by over 1.5 million traders and manufacturers to protest the Maharashtra's government's local body tax (LBT) in lieu of octroi.

Millions of customers were inconvenienced as neighbourhood retail shops, wholesale trading in clothes, electronics, hardware, metals, cloth, foodgrains, fruits, vegetables and all types of manufacturing activities in Mumbai were shut.

"Over a million retailers have wholeheartedly joined the strike from Tuesday, besides another half a million plus wholesalers and traders in Mumbai, barring certain essentials like pharmacies," Federation of Associations of Maharashtra president Mohan Gurnani told IANS.

He claimed this was the biggest response to a trade shutdown since the famous all-India strike of 1979 and said the trading community in Mumbai and other parts of the state had participated enthusiastically.

The Mumbai-based Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA) has joined its one million plus counterparts in the rest of Maharashtra, large sections of which have been on regular strikes or agitations since April 22 following a call by Confederation of All India Traders.

"If the state government does not roll back the LBT and revert to octroi, it will mean a loss of around Rs.5 million per day in Mumbai alone," FRTWA chief Viren Shah warned.

LBT, which replaced the traditional octroi in the various municipalities in the state, is an account-based cess collection for every raw material used or imported into the city limits by all businesses, traders and manufacturers.

While it has already been implemented in most parts of Maharashtra from April 1, it is due to be implemented in Mumbai from Oct 1.

Not willing to bow down to the traders, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan announced Monday evening that LBT will be implemented despite the traders' demands to scrap it.

Seeking the cooperation of opposition parties, especially Shiv Sena and Bharatiya Janata Party, Chavan said necessary legislation for this would be enacted in the monsoon session and LBT implemented across the state.

Chavan also urged the trading community to refrain from opposing LBT and resolve the issue through a dialogue instead of going on strike.

IANS