Dark Diwali for traders; Demonetisation and GST continue to burn India’s pocket

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NEW DELHI: With every heart cajoling the other, waiting for the festival of lights, all is not bright and shiny, but dull and gloomy as market stand vacant and empty awaiting customers and buyers to visit in times of inflation.

Every shopkeeper holds one man responsible for the dire situation. “Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done so much for us in the past one year, we are destroyed,” said Amarchand, who sells Diwali frills and decorative garlands at Sadar Bazar.

Deepak Saini, another shopkeeper selling the same item just ahead of Amarchand’s shop says, “Sales are down by 30%. It does not look like Diwali this year. We are all sitting idle.”

Diwali, the festival of lights, is a time when businessmen enjoy a period of prosperity. But this year, gloom has descended in New Delhi’s biggest wholesale markets. Thanks to demonetisation that rendered millions jobless at the lower pyramid of the economic activity – people are literally cashless.

Before any recovery could take place, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) came crashing down on the economy, making things more expensive.

During the average year in the festive season, companies – big and small – as well as individuals, purchase gifts for their employees, relatives and friends. It’s the time of year that electronic items, gold, household items and more are purchased as it is believed in Hinduism that if they splurge during that period, the goddess Laxmi would give them more.

But not this year. Post-demonetisation, which sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation, the country’s economy is in doldrums. A hiring freeze has gripped several large companies and growth in India’s GDP is falling. Many small and medium enterprises have gone out of business as the GST has made things too complex for them to remain profitable.

“Government said GST will bring down the prices. But barring a few things, a majority of things have become expensive. A kg of almonds cost Rs 640 before GST. It now costs Rs 740. Who will buy dry fruits this year?” asked Sureh Sharma, a wholesale dry fruit dealer at Asia’s biggest dry-fruit and spices market near Sadar Bazar.

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