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Lok Sabha polls: Sealing drive, GST concerns key issues for traders in Delhi; political parties scramble to woo with heap of promises

With nearly 7,000 shops being sealed in the last one and half years by the Monitoring Committee of the Supreme Court of India, sealing is likely to emerge as an important issue for the traders in Delhi when they go out to vote on 12 May. Along with sealing of shops, simplification of Goods and Services Taxes is likely to be another issue which has been another bone of contention among them.

 Lok Sabha polls: Sealing drive, GST concerns key issues for traders in Delhi; political parties scramble to woo with heap of promises

A sealed business establishment in New Delhi. Kangkan Acharyya/Firstpost

Traders, who are 19 lakh in number as per a Confederation of All India Traders estimate, form a sizeable population of Delhi voters. Though the traders were known to have a slant towards the BJP, in 2015 Assembly polls the Aam Admi Party made a dent in the saffron party vote bank. Bridging across the class and caste divide the AAP managed to win a historic 67 out of 70 Assembly segments in Delhi.

There are over 1.36 crore voters in Delhi and nearly 8 percent of them are estimated to belong to the Vaishya caste, who form a major chunk of the trader class in Delhi.

This time around, the test lies whether the saffron party would be able to retain the trader’s votes amid the mud-slinging between the parties over sealing and Goods and Services Tax.

Significantly in December 2017, the Supreme Court of India revived the Monitoring Committee to seal illegal constructions. Since then nearly 7,000 shops have been sealed rendering lakhs of people, directly and indirectly, dependant on them jobless.

“Though the number of people who have been directly affected by the sealing drive would be around 20,000 but the people who are indirectly affected would be around 7 lakh,” says Praveen Khandelwal, secretary in the Confederation of All India Traders.

Only in Chattarpur, around 70 shops have been sealed and nearly 5,000 people directly and indirectly affected by the drive, says Sumit Agarwal whose tiles shop has been sealed for the last one year.

“Traders in Chattarpur whose shops have been sealed have now shifted their businesses to various parts of North India to ensure that they do not run bankrupt. But many of the labourers who were directly and indirectly engaged with our businesses have returned to their villages,” he said.

Bhupendra Singh Rawat, spokesperson to Bhartiya Kisan Mazdoor Sanyukt Union, a farmer’s union said to Firstpost that sealing is not an issue the impact of which is limited to traders only, as it affects the lives of the working class population deeply.

“The working class people rely on the shops in their localities for their daily supplies. But most of them do not earn enough to pay in cash for the goods they buy every day. They often pay in instalments as they have a relationship of good faith with the shopkeepers. But when these shops get closed indefinitely, it causes uncertainty among the buyers too,” he says.

No wonder, sealing of shops have become one of the talking points not only among the traders but also among the people who are not into any form of trade.

“In Delhi today, the trader community is disturbed to the core and all because of sealing drive. Sealing of shops has led to widespread uncertainty among the traders,” said Soumveer, a resident of Laxmi Nagar who works in Municipal Corporation of Delhi and a resident of Laxmi Nagar.

The traders in Delhi now demand general amnesty for all the deviations in buildings.

“We have demanded that all the traders should be granted amnesty for the deviations in their constructions. Moreover, we have also placed a demand to reopen the shops which have been sealed until now,” said Khandelwal.

It is not only sealing but also the formalities required to follow to keep the threat of sealing at bay that has kept the traders on their toes.

Om Prakash, a trader in the Mayapuri scrap market in Delhi which recently bore the brunt of sealing for a completely different set of reasons says that the complications related to licensing polluting establishments should be done away with.

More than 760 shops and establishments recently received sealing notices after National Green Tribunal ordered to shut down polluting scrap units in Mayapuri.

“Our shops have been sealed for not possessing a license from Delhi Pollution Control Committee. But to acquire the No Objection Certificate from the Delhi Pollution Control Committee, we have to get a license from the Municipal Corporation. But there is no single window system to provide the license. We have to run from one office to another to acquire them, which results in loss of time and money and hence affects our livelihood,” he said.

Apart from sealing simplification of Goods and Services Tax return filing is also another issue among traders, says Sumit Agarwal.

“As per rule in force, we have to file GST return every month, which in itself is a problematic process. We demand that frequency of returns to be filed should be made quarterly a year,” he said.

He also added that there are some goods like spare parts of vehicles which do not fall in the category of ‘luxury goods’ but still 28 percent GST is charged on them, which traders think should be brought down.

Political parties are reaching out to the traders with promises of solving their problems. But on which party the traders would rest their trust this time around is still a question.

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Updated Date: May 06, 2019 15:36:55 IST