The 7th edition of the Grand Kerala Shopping Festival (GKSF), to be launched next month, has run into trouble with a section of merchants voicing concern over the mode of organising the event. While the government has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi (KVVES) with a view to increasing the number of participants, several others have raised objections on a variety of issues pertaining to the conduct of the shopping festival.

It is for the first time that the government has roped in KVVES for the event. “The aim is to make the event more popular and successful,” says P.A.M. Ibrahim, vice-president of KVVES. The organisation aims to distribute coupons worth Rs.30 crore to about one lakh merchants across Kerala. Each coupon is to be bought by the merchants from KVVES at Rs.10, to be given away to shoppers. The lucky dip, to be held at the end of the 45-day shopping festival, offers prizes worth a few crores of rupees.

Smaller traders are being sought to be included in the event. Consumers making a purchase worth Rs.250 are to be eligible for the coupon at some categories of shopping outlets. Merchants have been allotted slabs by KVVES, depending on their turnover, for the purpose of distributing coupons.

“KVVES is forcing smaller traders into the scheme,” says P.M. Sankaran, president of Bakers Association Kerala (BAKE). There is a move to impose the scheme on small bakery outlets that sustain on a meagre margin of 4 to 8 per cent. The GKSF coupons should be applicable only to those purchases above Rs.1,000, he said. He demanded that the move to impose the scheme on purchases worth Rs.250 be abandoned.

“Even vegetable vendors are being roped in by KVVES,” says Binny Immatty, president of Kerala Samsthana Vyapari Vyavasayi Samithi. About 6,000 major merchants had taken part in last year’s shopping festival.

“There is no logic behind the government’s partnership with KVVES, which has been done arbitrarily. The organisation will take up the issue with appropriate authorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Comptroller and Auditor General has given an adverse remark on the conduct of the fete, citing losses incurred by the government earlier. The Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has demanded more transparency in issuing prize coupons. A meeting of the urgent affairs sub-committee of the KCCI held on Wednesday in Kochi said work to different parties had to be awarded by inviting tenders, if necessary. The KCCI said if the government did not abandon its decision, its one lakh members would not participate in the fete.

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