Although considered the most auspicious time of the year for all kinds of shopping, this year both traders and consumers are feeling the heat of GST as reportedly sales have nose-dived by 70 percent in comparison to previous years.
All the major markets of Chinab Valley are witnessing little hustle and bustle since last one week and only a handful of people are turning into prospective shoppers as according to both shoppers and traders demonization followed by GST has played a spoil sport for Dhanteras and Diwali shoppers as they are unable to understand GST and thereby cope up with it's effects.
Seri Bazaar of Bhadarwah, which is the largest open air market of Chinab Valley usually remains abuzz with shoppers especially during festive seasons of Eid and Diwali, as beside locals, vendors from several neighbouring states including Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Delhi install their shops hoping brisk businesses continuously for one week during Diwali.
According to business community, markets are giving deserted look in comparison to previous years, very few people are coming to markets resulting very little business activity on Diwali this year, perhaps due to demonisation followed by GST there was no flow of money.Turnover in businesses including, gold, silvers, utensils, kitchen appliances and even crackers has remained at its lowest ebb in recent times.
Traders and vendors across the Chenab valley, especially in major towns like Bhadarwah, Doda, Kishtwar and Ramban, have complained of sales nosediving by as much as 50 to even 79 per cent this year. They claim that the implementation of GST has dampened the mood in the market. As opposed to the previous practice of paying 1 to 5 per cent Value Added Tax (VAT) on crackers, electronics and utensils earlier, customers now have to pay 18 per cent GST, which, businessmen say, has been a deterrent.
"Entire business community had pinned high hopes to revamp their business during Diwali but both business community and buyers are unable to cope up with the effects Demonetisation, GST and the confusion surrounding has broken the back of business community here, as in comparison to last years, we are doing 70 percent less business," said Imtiaz-Ur-Rehman – ur-Rehman Jaggu, leading business man of Chinab Valley.
" GST has cut down sales considerably especially that of middle class as there is still a lot of confusion about GST.
The way GST is being added to the bill by the shopkeepers looks like cheating, yesterday when I purchased some electronic goods, they charged me 28 (14+14) percent GST. In these circumstances how can we afford Diwali shopping," said Manoj Kotwal a local.
Not only the traders and consumers but also the seasonal vendors who had put high stakes and all their expectations to earn some good fortunes during the ongoing festive season are also feeling the heat of GST.
" Diwali festival used to be the only productive time of the year for us as we used to do brisk for the entire week but this year our wait for customers seems to end in futility as since morning, my sales is a meager Rs 10," said a cracker vendor, Neeraj Singh Manhas.
"I have invested all my money and even borrowed from my relatives in a hope to get good returns but GST has even sky rocketed the prices of crackers and sweets, and customers are not ready spend extra money. Now I fear huge losses and is highly unlikely to even make my investment," Manhas added.