BHUBANESWAR: As the stand-off between the Odisha Byabasayee Mahasangha (Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association) and the State Government over value added tax (VAT) on pulses and wheat products continues, the latter has decided to sell pulses through fair price shops. A decision to this effect was taken at a high-level meeting presided by Chief Secretary GC Pati, here on Thursday.
“The meeting decided that the Government will purchase about 10,000 tonnes of dal for which the Odisha Civil Supplies Corporation will invite tenders from the supply agencies within three days. The Corporation will sell the dal to consumers through the outlets of public distribution system (PDS),” Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Secretary MS Padhi told reporters here on Friday.
The whole process of tendering and procurement of dal will take at least 15 days and prices of pulses will be decided as per the cost involved. There will be no subsidy from the Government, he said.
A first of its kind in the State, Padhi said the Government was forced to take this decision as Federation of All Odisha Traders’ Association (FAOTA) refused to budge from their demand of lifting VAT at the rate of five per cent on pulses, wheat and wheat products and to ensure that the consumers did not face trouble.
Welcoming the Government’s decision to maintain the supply chain, the traders’ association, however, expressed its displeasure over the attitude of the former and the manner in which it decided to procure the commodities.
“In a democratic set up, we had put forth just one demand. Instead of considering it sympathetically, the Government decided to import dal and wheat from other States,” FAOTA secretary Sudhakar Panda said.
“We appeal to the traders to come for discussion and resolve the matter amicably. We want that the traders should also understand the revenue status of the State,” said Minister of State for Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Sanjay Dasburma.
The State Government has clarified that waiver of VAT on these commodities by the neighbouring States of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal violates the uniform tax system. Imposition of VAT on these items was as per the recommendation of the empowered committee of State Finance Ministers.
State traders had stopped procuring pulses, wheat and wheat products from other States from Wednesday as the Government refused to withdraw VAT on these food items. About 90 per cent of State’s dal and wheat requirement is imported from outside.
The State Government, however, appealed to the traders’ body to cooperate with the administration and wait till introduction of general service tax (GST).