Mumbai, April 12 (IANS) Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the government’s budget proposal to levy one percent excise duty on non-silver jewellery was an “attempt to kill” small traders and workers in the sector.
“It is not excise duty but an attempt to kill small jewellery traders and workers who are being crushed by the government,” Gandhi told a rally of striking jewellers and workers at Zaveri Bazaar in south Mumbai.
A majority of retail jewellers across the country have been on strike since March 2 to demand withdrawal of the proposed excise duty, but Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has refused to budge.
According to Gandhi, the proposed excise duty was an attempt to snatch business from seven crore small traders and workers and hand it over to a few big companies.
“‘Make in India’ (initiative) is required, but even justice is needed… The Congress will raise this issue in parliament,” Gandhi assured the traders.
The Congress leader said the government was acting more like a lawyer than a judge and oppressing weaker sections of society.
Gandhi said five or six big corporates and the central government have colluded to snatch farmers’ lands, and the Congress would not allow it. The party would stand by the farmers.
“The government has tried to enact the Land Acquisition Bill thrice, but the Congress didn’t let it happen… Ultimately, the government was forced to backtrack,” he said.
Party leaders, including state Congress president Ashok Chavan, Mumbai unit chief Sanjay Nirupam and former union minister Milind Deora, were present on the occasion.
Deora dubbed the nationwide strike by jewellers as “unprecedented”.
Meanwhile, referring to unconfirmed reports on withdrawal of strike by Mumbai jewellers from April 14, jewellers’ representative I. Singhal said one of their leaders, Fatehsinh Ranka, had been threatened by a union minister.