A joint delegation of the Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FJCCI) and the Congress on Wednesday called on Governor Syed Sibtey Razi to press for withdrawal of value-added tax (VAT) on foodgrains, potatoes and onions. The Governor assured of all help and said that the decision in this regard would be taken in a day or two. He, however, urged the trading body to ensure that the prices of necessary commodities were not hiked during the period.
Earlier in the day, a "Maha Sammelan" was organized in Ranchi under the banner of the FJCCI where it was decided to wait for the government decision and continue with the agitation in a phase-wise manner. As per the decision of the Sammelan, the FJCCI would carry out a poster campaign on June 18 & 19 against VAT while traders would sit on a dharna before the Birsa Munda Chowk on June 20 and take out a rally on June 23 that would subsequently gherao the Raj Bhavan.
"If the government fails to take any concrete step to withdraw the imposition of VAT, we would be compelled to go on an indefinite strike on June 24," FJCCI president Anchal Kingar said.
Kingar asserted that the state government was convinced with the idea of withdrawing the VAT from the state but there are certain limitations for which a formal announcement would be made after following proper procedure for it. "We have met the Governor and the chief secretary and they have assured us to take necessary action in the matter soon. However, the government has time till June 23 to take the decision after which we'll resort to an indefinite strike," he said.
On the other hand, the government has swung into action to see that there was no shortage of potatoes, onions and other necessary items. A high-level meeting was held on Tuesday evening to take stock of the situation arising out of the traders' agitation against the imposition of 4% VAT on these items. "The government is ready to consider traders' demands but it has its own limitations. The traders should not indulge in any act which may cause inconvenience to the people," the official said.
The Governor has also asked the chief secretary to make alternative arrangements so that there is no shortage of these items if traders go on an indefinite strike. The traders have already stopped buying fresh stocks of foodgrains, potatoes and onions since June 15 as a mark of protest.
Congress spokesperson Ravinder Singh said that party's state unit president Pradeep Balmuchu has also expressed his solidarity with the business community and urged the Governor to restrain from the implementation of VAT in the state.
The government has directed deputy commissioners to ensure that there is no crisis of foodgrains, potatoes and onions. They have been asked to open makeshift outlets through Krishi Bazar Kendras to sell these items. They have also been asked to deal firmly with traders indulging in illegal hoarding.