Thane was shutdown on Monday, the second time in the span of a week, as shops, big and small, remained closed. Thane traders joined their counterparts across Maharashtra to protest the local body tax that replaced octroi in the city on April 1.
Thousands of traders assembled at the Gaondevi Maidan in Thane on Monday morning to participate in a protest march that would end at the Thane Municipal Corporation office. They submitted their demands to TMC commissioner RA Rajeev.
"The commissioner was was non-committal. As far as we understand he will not make any changes to the tax," said Bhavesh Maroo, joint treasurer of Thane Small Scale Industries Association (TSSIA) and member of Thane Vyapar Mahasangh (THAM).
"We will now decide the next course of action. The sheer presence of so many people in the protest march and the complete shutdown shows that the angst against LBT is widespread,"
Residents, however, were fuming. Even kirana shops downed their shutters, making essential supplies such as milk and bread unavailable.
"I woke up a little late and went to the grocery store to buy milk at 10am. It was shut. Someone outside said it was open early morning but later shut down. This is the second time it is happening in a week. I am shocked at this anarchy," said a resident.
Citizens' groups also condemned the bandh.
"We strongly oppose the bandh. They should not hold Thanekars to ransom. Besides, the LBT is based on self-reporting and self-compliance. So, it is actually in favour of traders, as the civic action of checking accounts will not be required if traders pay taxes on time," said Dayanand Nene, an activist from Alert Citizens of Thane City.
Traders bodies however have based their opposition on the fact that LBT will eventually lead to increased costs which will spill over to the consumer.
"We called for the bandh to save the consumer because the manufacturer will pass on the increased burden caused by LBT to him. The common man will suffer the most if LBT is implemented in its current form," added Maroo.
Meanwhile, the TMC remains firm on continuing the tax without any changes.
"We have heard the traders' demands but no changes are forthcoming on LBT as of now. No decision has been taken to that effect," said KD Nipurte, head of department for LBT at the TMC.