Pharmacies, hotels, restaurants and cafes across Visakhapatnam closed down business yesterday for a day-long protest against the tax amount proposed by GST Council. Out of the almost 2000 establishments across the city, only a few remained open. Few others who shut shop all day opened only after 6 PM.
The few food joints that remained open were reportedly swarming with tourists and visitors. An all-India bandh was announced by the All India Organisation of Chemists and Druggists (AIOCD) and Andhra Pradesh Hotels Association to not just protest against the GST tax levied on restaurants and medicines, but also against the online sale of drugs too.
The GST council has decided on various tax slabs for restaurants upon the availability of AC and based on annual turnover. VAT has been imposed on non-AC restaurants while those with AC will be paying both VAT and service tax. Restaurants that have a turnover of less than Rs 50 lakh will be levied of tax by 5% and those with a turnover of more than Rs 50 lakh will pay 18%.
AC restaurants will pay 18% tax and non-AC will be paying 12%. The tax has suddenly increased from 5% to 18%, causing an inconvenience. The main demand of those protesting was that the GST should be fixed at 5%, irrespective of the category of hotel. Andhra Pradesh reportedly has the highest tax rate in South India. The move of upping these taxes mean that customers will end up paying the hiked tax amount along with their bill.
Coming to pharmacies, 90% pharmacies in the city had participated in the bandh. But few drug stores attached to hospitals and nursing homes were exempt so as to not cause inconvenience to people.