KERALA

Minister urges traders to call off proposed hartal

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM MARCH 30. The Finance Minister, K. Sankaranarayanan, has urged the traders to call off their proposed hartal on March 31 and April 1.

In a statement here today, he said the hartal planned by sections of traders would hit normal life in the State.

Hence, the traders should withdraw from the stir. Referring to the traders' complaints about the proposed valued-added tax (VAT) system, the Minister said that he had assured them that no decision harmful to them would be taken. The Government was also willing to hold talks with them.

He noted that the State proposed to implement VAT in view of a consensus at the national level. The Government had held about 70 seminars to explain the features of the system to the traders. It also made several amendments to the VAT Bill on the basis of discussions. Moreover, VAT would be implemented in the State only with other States.

Mr. Sankaranarayanan said that the Government was sincere about solving the problems of traders. The Government was ready at any stage to address the problems that would arise in the course of implementation of VAT.

The Government announced last week that the State would not be implementing VAT from April 1 as other States had not completed the preparations. Meanwhile, an advertisement by the Union Ministry of Finance on Saturday said that State Governments were committed to implementing VAT from April 2003, had created some confusion.

The statement said the uniform rates of VAT would boost fair trade. Self-assessment would reduce the tax-payers need to visit the tax department offices. With zero rating of exports, the rate of tax on export goods would be zero and yet credit would be given on tax paid on inputs. This would make exports more competitive. VAT would not lead to price rise as there would be no tax on tax, it said.

Traders to stage dharnas

The Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithy led by T. Nazirudeen and Kerala Entrepreneurs Forum will stage dharnas in front of the Secretariat for 36 hours from March 31 morning as part of their agitation.

The general convener of the traders' action council, V. Sivanandan, said that VAT would lead to price rise. It would also cause much legal hurdles for the traders.

He said that dharnas by traders would be held in all 14 districts.

The forum demanded that the Kerala Buildings Lease Bill should be changed. The hike in power charges and licence fees should be withdrawn. The laws regulating hotels and distribution of medicines should be made transparent.

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