Intensifying their protest against excise duty, local jewellers and goldsmiths on Monday forced the Amritsar-Howrah Express to halt at the Shivala railway crossing here.
Jewellers have been on a strike since March 2 protesting against the excise duty on non-silver jewellery items proposed in the Union budget besides the mandatory furnishing of permanent account number (PAN) details by customers for transactions above Rs 2 lakh.
Getting no respite from the Centre, thousands of protesters staged a dharna on the railway track. The blockade that started at 11am lasted for an hour and a half. Shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley, the agitators said: “We don’t want ‘acche din’ (good days) that have ruined us. Give us back our ‘purane din’ (old days).”
“During the parliamentary elections of 2014, we extended unprecedented support to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with a hope that on coming into power its government would take care of traders’ interests. The BJP-led government, however, has outdone the previous United Progressive Alliance government in damaging our businesses. The BJP is no longer a pro-trader party, as it has marginalised us,” said Amritsar Sarafa Association leader Anil Jain.
Jain said all jewellers and goldsmiths had come together to protest against the government’s proposal. “Today, we have blocked the rail traffic. If our voice is not heard by the government, we will just hand over keys of our shops to BJP legislators,” he said.
Maninder Singh, a protesting goldsmith, said their shops were shut for the past one month, but the government did nothing to address their concerns. “The objectionable move of the government has forced our community to come out on streets. If the decision is not reviewed, we will suffer huge losses,” he said.
Representatives of the Amritsar Sarafa Association, Bullion Ornament Civil Line and District Swarankar Sangh also threatened to lay siege to the residence of Punjab local bodies minister Anil Joshi if the government failed to roll back the excise duty. Representatives of other traders’ bodies besides the Congress are also backing the stir.
Passengers of the Amritsar-Howrah Express were in for a major inconvenience as the train was halted at the railway crossing, which is far from the railway station. Passengers had to alight from the train at the protest site and move to their destinations from there. Also, the commuters passing the railway crossing remained stuck as the blockade was lifted after an hour and a half.
The blockade, however, remained peaceful as senior police officials oversaw security arrangements at the protest site.
Batala jewellers burn Jaitley’s effigy, demand rollback
Raising slogans against the Union government for imposing 1% excise duty on gold and diamond ornaments, hundreds of jewellers took out a protest march here on Monday.
The protesters, who have been on a nationwide strike for a month, gathered at the Nehru gate and marched through various markets of the town. They also burnt the effigy of finance minister Arun Jaitley, who made the proposal in the recent Union budget.
Terming it a draconian law, Swarankar Sangh district president Ashok Luthra said it would push them into a deep financial mess and the government needed to review its decision.
“During their tenure, the Congress-led UPA government, too, had imposed similar policies on the goldsmith community. However, a 27-day indefinite strike forced the government to withdraw the policy. This time, we have been protesting for the past 28 days and won’t give up till the government revokes its decision,” he said.