Explained: Why traders, transporters are calling for Bharat Bandh?
New Delhi, Feb 26: The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Friday called for a day-long nationwide strike in protest of the rise in fuel prices as well as changes to e-way bill validities. They have also demanded the Centre conduct a review of provisions under the Goods and Services Tax (GST). According to reports, the CAIT has directed all commercial markets to remain shut across the country between 6 am and 8 pm today.
Meanwhile, it can be seen that the All India Transporters Welfare Association (AIWTA) has also thrown its weight behind the Bharat Bandh stating that it will hold road blockades. Several farm unions protesting against the recently-passed farm laws confirmed they would also participate peacefully in the nationwide strike.
CAIT General Secretary Praveen Khandelwal noted that almost 40,000 trader associations have responded affirmatively to the call for the strike. According to reports, around 30 to 40 lakh transporters will also remain off the road for the duration of the strike. Sit-ins and road blockades are expected to take place across as many as 1,500 locations in the country.
But, what exactly has CAIT and AIWTA concerned? At the heart of their worries lies rising fuel prices which Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has herself previously labelled 'vexatious'.
For instance, petrol prices have nearly reached a record high of Rs 100 in several parts of the country. Some part of this rise could be attributed to the strengthening of global crude oil prices but the bulk of it has been due to inordinately high federal and state taxes.
In Delhi, the retail price of petrol stood at Rs 89.29 per litre as of February 16 (according to the Indian Oil Corporation). While Rs 31.82 of that is the basic fuel costs, Rs 32 is the excise duty applied, with an additional Rs 20.61 making up Value-added Tax (VAT).
Traders have also raised concerns over the GST mechanism, its multiple taxation slabs and filing difficulties. CAIT has campaigned for a simplification of the GST regime towards enabling easier compliance specifically for small traders operating out of far-flung areas in the country.
Another issue relates to a recent in the GST Act 2017 which affects e-way bill validity. An e-way bill is effectively a document that transporters need to carry and present to authorities when moving goods within or across states.
A recent amendment made has, reportedly, narrowed the validity of an e-way bill by increasing the distance from 100km per day to 200km per day. If a truck is found to be carrying an expired e-way bill, it may be liable to pay a penalty amounting to 200 per cent of the tax value or 100 per cent of the invoice value under Section 129 of the CGST Act.