June 24: The entrepreneurs of eastern Nepal have started the second phase of protest on Thursday stating that the assurance given by Finance Minister Janardan Sharma has not been fulfilled yet. They argue that the provisions related to revenue in the Finance Act 2079 BS is leading to the closure of industries.
The agitating entrepreneurs staged protest at Gokuwa Chowk along the Dharan-Biratnagar road and demanded resignation of Finance Minister Sharma. They said that the customs duty on finished goods should be one level higher than that of raw materials. However, as per the entrepreneurs, industries based on vegetable oil, sanitary pads and MS wire rods are on the verge of shut down after the rate of revenue was manipulated so that finished goods could be imported at a lower customs rate than the raw materials.
Earlier, the industrialists hit the streets demanding a reversal of the tax rate. They postponed the agitation after finance minister assured them of resolving the issue by mid-June.
President of the Morang Merchants’ Association Naveen Rijal said that they were compelled to protest as the finance minister did not fulfill his promise. Industrialists, businessmen and workers protested from Gokuwa Chowk along the Dharan-Biratnagar Highway in Budhiganga Municipality and held a corner meeting at Nemuwa Chowk.
Addressing the corner meeting, Rijal said that the corruption policy of the finance minister benefited only limited industries. Circumstances are created prompting other industries to shut down, thousands of workers have lost their livelihood and billions of rupees gone down the drain. He also informed that there is a programme to picket the Inland Revenue Office and Biratnagar Customs Office on Friday. Rijal said the agitation will continue until the revised tax rates are withdrawn and the finance minister resigns.
Finance Minister Sharma has been alleged of changing the tax rate with the intention of shutting down the GI wire, vegetable oil and sanitary pad industries while protecting a limited number of industries. Trade unions affiliated to the CPN-UML, Nepali Congress, Maoist Center and CPN-S are also involved in the agitation along with Morang Merchants Association, Chamber of Industries Morang and Confederation of Nepalese Industries, Province 1 chapter.
Former president of the Chamber of Industries Morang Pawan Kumar Sharda stated that Finance Minister Sharma and Finance Secretary Madhu Kumar Marasini had promised to address the demand the day after the budget was passed by inviting industrialists and businessmen for talks.
Chairman of the chamber Suyash Raj Pyakurel and Chairman of Province 1 chapter of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries Bhim Ghimire also said that the agitation started after the Finance Minister and the Finance Secretary failed to fulfill their promise. They said that the protest will continue till the assurance given by the finance minister to the industrialists is fulfilled.
Former president of the union, Prakash Mundada, said that the government should take responsibility for any unpleasant incident occurred during the protest as the government is the one responsible for getting businessmen and workers to the streets.
Finance Minister Sharma had called the industrialists of Sunsari-Morang Industrial Corridor to Kathmandu for talks in the middle of the protest and accepted the error made in the budget announced on May 29. He had assured them that the budget would be passed with amendment. The entrepreneurs had postponed their agitation after the assurance of the finance minister. However, the parliament passed the Finance Bill 2079 without amending the proposed tax rates.