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Some headway in local body tax talks, but stir still on
May, 18th 2013

A meeting between chief secretary J K Banthia, government officials and the Poona Merchants' Chamber in Mumbai on Friday brought some hope as the government has verbally agreed to act upon 20 of the 23 changes suggested by the traders in the local body tax (LBT) law. But traders said they would continue with the strike till they had received a written confirmation from the government.

Ajit Sethiya, president of the Poona Merchants' Chamber, told TOI that the meeting with the government committee, appointed to resolve the deadlock between the traders and the state government, seemed positive.

"We brought to the notice of the chief secretary the problems faced by traders in Vasai, Jalgaon, Kolhapur, Solapur, Aurangabad and Ahmednagar, where the LBT has been implemented. We also showed him proof of the harassment faced by the traders due to current legal provisions," he said.

"The government has not given anything in writing as they wanted a consensus between all traders in Maharashtra. The committee has scheduled another meeting with traders on Monday. Banthia will also brief chief minister Prithviraj Chavan about the corrections we have suggested in the LBT law and a positive declaration on Monday will be made," said Sethiya.

A total of 29 changes have been demanded by the traders in the LBT law since it was imposed from April 1. Of this, seven to eight amendments were made in April.

Meanwhile the Pune Traders' Federation said in a statement issued on Friday that it has decided to continue the strike against the imposition of Local Body Tax. The statement said traders had no option but to continue with the bandh as the government kept delaying its decision.

Popatlal Ostwal, president of the Pune Traders' Federation, said, "Traders have been on strike since the last ten days to oppose imposition of LBT, but the government seems to be delaying its decision," he said. Mahendra Pitaliya, secretary of the federation, said the government had agreed on the lacunae of the LBT act were dilly-dallying in making the changes.

Meanwhile, the federation is carrying out an awareness drive in residential complexes, outside malls and societies, where they are distributing pamphlets with information on LBT and the traders' stand on the law. "We also conducted a prayer in Camp's Hollywood Gurdwara on Friday, which was attended by hundreds of traders. Likewise, an aarti has been scheduled in the Hanuman temple in Camp on Saturday morning," said Jayant Shete from the federation.

Otswal added that on Friday, the traders undertook an agitation outside 17 to 18 malls in the city, in order to persuade mall authorities to join the bandh. The 'dharnas' outside malls will continue on Saturday too, he added.

Meanwhile, citizens stocked up essentials in the face of uncertainty about the strike. Aneesh Bangia of Vimannagar said that except a couple of shops including a photocopying outlet, many shops in his area remained closed. "I have stored milk and groceries for a week and currently there is no problem as medical shops have been open in case we need medicine in emergencies. However, stationery being closed can be a problem since I am a teacher and need many items," he said.

Pooja Kamra, a resident of Aundh, said, "Eatables can be got from super markets. However, buying new clothes is a problem. I wanted a sari for a relative, but could not find any garment shop open."

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