Bengal sweet shops turn bitter and blue after GST
KOLKATA,August21: Its going to be a very blue Monday for Bengal. And not a single rosogolla or sandesh to lift the spirits. Close to 1.5 lakh sweet shops across the state are keeping their shutters down for 24 full hours. On Sunday, posters went up saying – No GST please for mishti (Sweets).
Sweet shop owners had protested in June before the GST was imposed. As Mr Arun Sen of the Sen Mahashay chain of sweet shops said, “Bengali sweets are very perishable unlike north Indian sweets. So if fish and vegetables are not being brought under GST, mishtishouldn’t either.”
“There is a huge variety of sweets and they come under different slabs of GST and that is becoming a daily problem. Our employees are finding it impossible to make bills,” he added.
Pradeep Kar of VIP Sweets in Salt Lake said, “Most of us working in sweet shops are not very educated. So calculating different GST rates for different sweets….we just can’t do it. If there must be GST, let there be just one slab.”
The unorganised ‘mishti‘ industry has an estimated turnover of Rs. 1,000 crore and directly employs about 10 lakh people, says the West Bengal Mishtanna Byabshayee Samiti. They argue that the industry was also exempted from VAT, so why GST now?
Till late yesterday evening, some sweet shops had not heard from the management if they were joining the strike. “We are waiting for a confirmation,” said store manager Sanjay Gupta.
“But yes it is a problem. If a chocolate based sweet is charged 28 per cent GST, who will buy,” he added.
Surprisingly, there was no rush to stock up on mishti yesterday. A customer, who was a doctor, even said, “good thing for patients of diabetes. But mishti is the daily bread for people in Bengal.”
“We must have some sweet or the other for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Monday is going to be a difficult day.” said a customer. Another gentleman said, “Sweets are one thing Bengalis love and it is a shame it is getting so highly taxed.”
A young customer at a sweet shop had a simple advice yesterday: “When you know you are not going to get your daily dose of mishti, just eat as much as you can today. Day after tomorrow is another day.”