J&K misses pan-India GST deadline as traders hit streets

Jammu and Kashmir state missed the July 1 deadline to implement the goods and services tax (GST) after protests by Opposition and traders here against the central law. The traders hit the streets even as the shops and business establishments remained shut, while traffic was off the roads as the business community protested the extension of GST law to the state.

Authorities imposed restrictions in parts of Srinagar city here to prevent protests against the implementation of GST. The Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) president Muhammad Yasin Khan had called for the Valley-wide protests and shutdown.

Jammu and Kashmir is the only state which is yet to take a final call on the GST implementation as India’s biggest tax reform was rolled out past midnight Friday. The state government has called for a special session of the legislature on 4 July to discuss the implementation of the tax here.

Amid complete shutdown Authorities foiled joint protest rally of trade bodies and detained scores of leaders including Yasin Khan, when he was leading a protest march towards Regal Chowk. The trade bodies including KTMF, KEA, transporter associations and others assembled at clock tower (Ganta Ghar) here and raised anti-GST and anti-Govt slogans while holding placards and banners.

The protesters during the sit-in said that they are against GST and won’t allow any compromise on the larger interests of Jammu and Kashmir, which enjoys the special status.

Yasin Khan alleged that the Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb A Drabu is trying to divide business community to meet his ‘sinister motives’ with an aim to implement of GST in the state. Khan while talking to the reporters here also clarified that he has not applied for the GST number.

“The number which is being circulated in the media has been generated by the state government itself, as has been done in case of thousands of other traders of Kashmir who have a commercial tax number, but never applied for GST,” Khan said. 

Khan said the taxation authorities have themselves generated temporary GST numbers for the traders registered with the central taxation department. “This is a sinister move of the government to discredit us. I have not applied for GST anywhere and if it’s proved that I applied for any such number, I will quit business and the business fraternity forever,” Khan said.

He appealed the traders community to remain united to defeat the ‘sinister moves’. “We won’t allow government to implement the GST in the state and there can be no compromise on the larger interests of Jammu and Kashmir, which enjoys the special status,” he said, adding that the government can implement the law “here but that should be amended according to the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir.’’ Khan also appealed the civil society to come forward for a joint strategy to counter the sinister moves.

Meanwhile, the trade bodies after holding sit-in tried to march towards Regal Chowk. However, as soon as the protesters reached near SRTC bus stand, police swung into action and detained scores of trade members including Khan. The detained traders were later lodged at Kothi Bagh police station.  A  shutdown was today observed across the Valley against the government’s ‘imminent decision’ of implementing the GST in the state.

However, the movement of pilgrims to the Amarnath Cave Shrine remained unaffected by the shutdown call.  Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel in full riot gear were deployed in the areas – Khanyar, Rainawari, Nowhatta, MRGunj, Safa Kadal – placed under restrictions.

As Jammu and Kashmir enjoys ‘special status’ in the Indian Constitution through Article 370, traders, transporters and opposition parties have raised objections with regard to the implementation of the GST in the state.

However, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) – Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has claimed that the ‘special status won’t be diluted in any case’.  The strike comes two days after the government failed to break the ice on implementation of GST in the state as the All Party Consultative Group (APCG) meeting called to build consensus on the tax regime remained inconclusive on Thursday.

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