Traders on warpath over indecision on toll abolition

Four months after GST rollout, tax still being imposed at Lakhanpur

As the ruling PDP-BJP government is adopting delaying tactics in extending the idea of ‘one nation, one tax’ to J&K, the continuation of imposition of toll on goods at Lakhanpur has set off a massive row, putting traders and others on the warpath in the region.
Even after the lapse of almost four months since the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) in the state on July 8, the coalition government has so far taken no decision on the toll abolition at Lakhanpur, the gateway to J&K.
Consequently, several Jammu-based groups have planned to call a complete shutdown in Jammu on November 6 when the Durbar offices will reopen in the winter capital of the state. They are taking the step to lodge their protest against the levying of toll.
Sources said the government was adamant on continuing with this arrangement of “double taxation” just to maintain the “special status” of J&K even as the BJP had failed to convince the PDP to stop the practice.
This is happening in spite of Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s advice to the state government to abolish toll during his visit to Jammu and Kashmir in September this year.
Amid politics over continuation of toll, consumers are bearing the brunt of the “double taxation system” as they continue to get the merchandise and commodities at higher prices as compared to markets in the neighbouring states as toll is being collected from all goods-laden vehicles entering the state.On an average, around 2,000 goods-laden trucks enter J&K via Lakhanpur daily and they are forced to pay toll.
“The total toll collected from the goods-laden trucks entering J&K has a direct bearing on the cost of products in the markets of the state as we collect it from consumers by increasing the rates of the goods at the time of sale. No trader will bear the loss and he will collect this money from consumers,” said Satish Kumar, a general store owner in Janipur.
Shiv Sharma, a trader in the City Chowk area, said, “One of the ideas of introducing the GST was to stop malpractices which have not ended at Lakhanpur where the truckers are being looted and harassed in the name of toll. The government should put the interests of consumers on priority and abolish the illegal and unconstitutional practice immediately which is only aimed at revival and strengthening of Article 370.”
Ajay Nanda, Minister of State for Finance, who belongs to the BJP, said the toll abolition was under “serious consideration” of the government. “Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu was not in the state and he has just returned from abroad. We will take up the matter with him after the reopening of Civil Secretariat. We are hopeful of finding a solution,” he said.