Textile merchants staged a novel protest by wearing masks of skeletons to symbolise that the Value Added Tax (VAT) was a death knell on them, here on Saturday. The merchants, under the aegis of the Textile Merchants' Welfare Association, took out a rally in Governorpet covering Besant Road and adjoining areas. They later formed a human chain on the Besant Road and raised slogans against the government's “indifferent attitude” to the problem.
The traders said it was a do-or-die situation for them. The textile merchants were facing intense competition from Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu, where there was no VAT on textiles. As per the call given by the Andhra Pradesh Federation of Textiles Association, the bandh would continue up to January 31. Despite repeated requests and protests, the government remained silent only to fill its coffers, they said.
We don't mind if any tax was imposed across India as it would impose burden equally. “Our concern is that the business is going to neighbouring states such as Tamil Nadu, where there is no VAT on textiles,” they said.
The relay hunger strikes near the Sub Collector's Office and Vastraalata continued on Saturday also. The textile bandh entered sixth day. The agitating merchants forcibly closed some shopping malls such as Kalaniketan on the Bandar Road. They entered into a heated argument with readymade shop owners over the bandh. They insisted that all shops that house both readymade and textiles be closed as per the bandh call.
The traders observed three-day bandh in December following raids by Commercial Taxes Department. The CT officials raided the shops in a strategic manner in December, which is Christmas-Sankranti season. The tussle ended with the intervention of Vijayawada (West) MLA Velampalli Srinvasa Rao.