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Mood Turns Sour in Bengal’s Sweet Shops as Mishti Stays Under GST

Pointing out at the reduction in rate for khakra, a snack mainly consumed in poll-bound Gujarat, sweet shop owners said the government’s tax reform reeks of “step-motherly treatment”.

Sujit Nath | News18.com

Updated:October 7, 2017, 8:39 PM IST
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Mood Turns Sour in Bengal’s Sweet Shops as Mishti Stays Under GST
Before GST was introduced, sweets were not taxed in Bengal. (Photo for representation: Reuters)
Kolkata: Ahead of Diwali, nearly 2 lakh sweet shop owners in Bengal had pinned their hopes on a rethink on GST imposed on sweets for a boost in sales. So it came as a rude shock to them when the government decided to keep the tax rate unchanged.

Pointing out at the reduction in rate for khakra, a snack mainly consumed in poll-bound Gujarat, they said the government’s tax reform reeks of “step-motherly treatment”.

“The central government should understand the plight of people associated with the business. If they continue with this, we will be left with no other option but to call a strike,” Ram Chawrasia, head of the Paschimbanga Mistanna Byabsayee Samity, told News18. He said the association is planning to launch a protest in Delhi after Diwali.

Concerned over the dip in sales due to GST pushing up prices, the All Bengal Sweetmeat Shop Owners association had written to finance minister Arun Jaitley and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to decrease tax on sweets – if not remove it completely.

Before GST was introduced, sweets were not taxed in the state.

Currently, there is 5 percent GST on Rossogolla, Sandesh, Jal Bhara, Gulab Jamun, Rabri, Kaacha Golla and Makha Sandesh. There was some confusion that chocolate coated sweets will be taxed at 28 percent, but the government clarified it would also fall in the 5 percent slab. Tax on snack items like namkeen, bhujia, radhaballavi (stuffed kachori), and plain kachori has been reduced from 12 to 5 percent.

Chawrasia said that although they welcome the reduction in tax on namkeen, their business will still suffer because of the tax rate. “We can see that there will be huge impact on our industry during Diwali. The sales are likely to go down. We are really worried,” he said.

Highlighting the procurement of raw cheese, he said that a large number of women in rural areas are also suffering. “We procure 95 percent cheese from rural Bengal and mostly women are involved in this sector,” he said.

RK Paul, general secretary of PMBS, said, “After Diwali, we are planning to go for a mass agitation in Delhi. We will also try to meet the finance minister to raise our concern. If they continue to be ignorant towards us, we will again go for a strike,” he said.

Nearly 80,000 people associated with the sweet industry in the state. Sweet shop owners had objected to GST earlier too and had shut their shops for 24 hours as a mark of protest.

The association claimed that nearly 80 percent sweetmeat business falls under the informal sector. “How will these people maintain a log book and bill book when they don’t have any idea about the tax system,” Paul said.

The GST Council, headed by Jaitley, had on Friday tweaked the GST structure and reduced the tax burden on 27 goods, apart from easing the burden on small traders and exporters by making filing returns simpler.
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