Traders relent, agree to import essentials

Bhubaneswar: Bringing temporary solace to the consumers, the Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA), which was on strike demanding exemption of VAT on pulses, wheat and wheat products, today postponed the agitation for two months and resumed import of essential commodities following an assurance of the government to consider the matter.

In a letter to the traders’ body, the government assured to consider its demands after the budget session following which the association deferred its strike till May 27.

“The proposal of Odisha Byabasai Mahasangha to reduce VAT on certain food items would be taken for consideration after 26th, May, 2016 i.e. after budget session of Odisha Legislative Assembly”, the letter read.

The government has decided to constitute a committee which will study the demands of the traders, it said.

“An expert level committee will be formed and it will examine the impact of such a tax on various food items. The government will take a call after the panel submits its report”, Food minister Sanjay Dasburma said.

The traders, however, may accept the one percent VAT, but warned the government of resuming the stir in case of non action.

“We will again resort to agitation after May 26 if the government fails to take any visible action on our demands”, FAOTA general secretary Sudhakar Panda said.

After three meetings between government and traders yielded no results, FAOTA had stopped importing pulses, wheat and wheat products since April 1 demanding waiver of 5% value-added tax and imposition of 1% entry tax.

The government had turned down the traders’ demand citing that the matter of imposition of entry tax on agricultural products is pending before the Supreme Court.

Two days ago, Finance minister Pradip Amat had said the constitutional validity of entry tax had been challenged and the case was pending before the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court. The State had filed an affidavit to maintain status-quo. So, entry tax cannot be levied on dal and pulses at this stage.

However, the federation had refused to buy the argument and continued the strike.