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Bengal decides to write to Centre after GST hiccups

Sulagna Sengupta | Updated on: 1 July 2017, 19:41 IST

Like in most places across India, the launch of the Goods and Services Tax was full of glitches in West Bengal. Apprehensions expressed by various quarters, especially those by traders, seemed to be all coming true. So much so that the state government has decided to urge the government to spare more time for an effective roll-out.

On Saturday, issues cropped up with the GST left, right and centre. Traders and shop-owners had issues with the new rate chart. Small and medium scale entrepreneurs couldn't upload their balance sheets on to the system. Some cinema owners even decided to stop screening for the day to get their acts together.

“We are not yet prepared with the new rate chart, fixed by the GST Council, and are selling at old rates,” Tamal Saha, who sells garments at Kolkata's New Market, said.

Various shopkeepers' associations said until a new rate chart is fixed, shopkeepers have been asked to sell their products at old prices. “We will fix a new rate chart as early as possible for several products where GST has been added,” Nimai Das, general secretary of Shop Dealers Association, said.

Chemists saw long queues. Many buyers claimed post-GST, there was a dearth in the availability of essential drugs. “I went to buy a medicine at the dispensary at SSKM Hospital. I was told it was unavailable. It’s a simple pain killer, but I can't find it anywhere,” said Ruby Roy who went to SSKM Hospital on Saturday morning for her monthly check-up.

Several single-screen cinema owners didn't operate on Saturday as they couldn't update information. “We are updating information on to the system and will open our cinema only after that. It will take about a day," Dipen Mitra, the owner of Mitra Cinema, said.

Sources in the state government said the Finance Minister Amit Mitra, who was also the chairman of the GST Council, has decided to write a letter to Arun Jaitley next week urging him to look into the issues. According to Mitra, the entrepreneurs need more time to grasp the system.

A senior official of the state government said, “We got enough requests from the small and medium entrepreneurs asking for some more time to upload their balance sheet on the website and so state finance minister has decided to urge the Union Finance Minister in this regard.”

“We feel that some of the clauses in the GST are draconian in nature as there is a provision that an entrepreneur can be arrested if he/she does not uplink their balance sheet regularly. We are not supporting such clauses and I will request the Centre again to give more time to small and medium entrepreneurs for this,” Mitra said.

On Thursday, the West Bengal Cabinet decided that state government would continue to levy only 2% tax as earlier, irrespective of the rate fixed by the GST Council on the screening of regional films. Mitra has already said the state government will make up for the balance through rebates.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 1 July 2017, 19:41 IST