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Petrol pump strike: government clamps essential commodities act

Ranchi: Jharkhand government on Monday night enforced Essential Commodities Act, 1955 in the wake of 12 hour strike called by Jharkhand Petroleum Dealers Association (JPDA) on Tuesday.

An order from the state food and civil supplies department read, “Under section 2 A of the act petroleum item is covered as an essential commodity. Section 3.2.e pertains to prohibiting the withholding of any essential commodity kept for sale. Hence, government considers the proposed strike by petroleum dealers as unlawful and directs all pumps to remain open.”

As many as 1448 petrol pumps in Jharkhand announced to remain close on Tuesday to demand reduction of value added taxes (VAT) on petrol and diesel from 22% to 17%. Jharkhand Petroleum Dealers Association (JPDA) state president Ashok Singh on Monday said that they have decided to keep petrol pumps closed from 6am-6pm.

Following reduction of taxes on petrol and diesel by Narendra Modi government in November, many states including non-BJP ruled ones have slashed their VAT to provide further relief to people.In Jharkhand too, petroleum dealers have been lobbying with different officials and ministers in the state government seeking reduction but to no avail prompting them to call stir.

Singh said, “Due to high VAT in this state, diesel is costlier than the neighbouring states as a result, vehicles tend to take diesel from outside Jharkhand. Petrol pumps on border areas are facing losses. If the state government reduces the VAT from 22% to 17%, not just the petrol pumps, but government’s ex-chequer will also be benefitted in terms of revenues.”

JMM-Congress-RJD coalition government is indecisive on the issue as yet even though certain sections in the Congress are supporting the demand to trim the tax. Congress’s MLA and finance minister Rameshwar Oraon however said that since their government hasn’t imposed any taxes, they shouldn’t be held liable for reduction.

“After enforcement of GST, all the revenue channels of the state have dried up. State too requires money to run the government and welfare schemes. Hence, BJP government in the Centre should reduce the prices,” he said.