2nd phase protests by Sikkim business community to begin from Sep 24

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Gangtok, Sep 22 (UNI) The business community in Sikkim has decided to protest against the Centre's alleged discrimination while implementing the Income Tax Act, 1961, in the state by wearing black bands.

Sikkim Chamber of Commerce (SCC) president S K Sarda, after an emergency meeting of the body said, ''Every member of the business community will wear black bands and display protest posters in their premises on September 24 and 25 to highlight our two main demands.'' The first demand of the business community is exemption of Income Tax for the 400 families of old business communities and old settlers living in Sikkim before April 26, 1975, the date the erstwhile kingdom merged with India.

The second demand is for implementation of Direct Tax Laws to other non-exempted people of Sikkim on a prospective date and not on April 1, 2007, as directed by the Union Finance Ministry.

The business community had already submitted a memorandum to Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram on August 27 through the Sikkim Income Tax Office during the first phase of its protest against the alleged discrimination meted out to them.

''However, nothing conclusive has been done by the Centre so far and delay on this will simply add to our difficulties,'' Mr Sarda said.

Earlier this year, the Centre had exempted Sikkim subject holders from paying Direct Income Tax by passing an amendment in the Finance Bill of 2008.

People of Sikkimese origin having Sikkim subjects have been exempted from Direct Taxes as per the 26AAA clause paving way for the Act to be enforced in the state.

The era of Direct Taxes began in Sikkim with the Central Income Tax office starting its operations from August 6.

Old business communities numbering to 400 families and other people working in the state represent a huge chunk of those people who do not have Sikkimese subjects and thus have to cough up taxes now as per Income Tax Act, 1961.

This has triggered resentment among the local business community who do not have the Sikkim subjects or Certificates of Identification though they have been living in the state for generations.

The community has also placed their demands for Income Tax exemption before the state Governor and Chief Minister.

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