Jewellers protesting the Centre’s Budget proposal to increase the excise duty and furnish customer PAN details, opened up makeshift vegetable stores and sold only to people with PAN cards to show their disapproval.
Merchants in Bardoli at Surat sold pakoras, vegetables and ‘excise tea’ in response to the government increasing the excise duty by 1% and asking for PAN details for transaction above Rs 2 lakh. Jewellers have been on protest for a month following the government’s announcement during the Budget session in February. The jewellers want the proposal to be rolled back.
In Rajkot, about 2,000 jewellers and workers announced they were withdrawing their membership from the ruling BJP as slogans like ‘kamal ka phool, hamari bhul’ (the lotus was our mistake) picked up among the protesters. The lotus is the BJP’s insignia.
Some merchants reportedly demanded PAN details for purchases as low as Rs 10 at the makeshift vegetable stalls.
The strike across Gujarat is hitting the jewellery business across the country as Surat has several diamond polishing units and Rajkot is a hub for designing and making.
Many jewellery houses in cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata have also remained closed since the protests started on March 2.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government would not roll back the proposal. However, the government has constituted a panel under former chief economic advisor Ashok Lahiri to look into issue and submit a report in 60 days. The sub-committee will look into issues related to the compliance procedure for the excise duty, including records to be maintained, forms to be filled, operating procedures and other relevant aspects.
The government’s stubborn stand on increasing the excise duty and asking for PAN details is aimed at ensuring checks and balances in the jewellery industry. It also impedes those eluding paying taxes or funnelling black money through heavy bullion purchases.