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Voices of Gujarat: ‘GST a Burden’, ‘Alcoholism Still Rampant’

From prohibition to GST burden, watch these five people tell you what will define their vote this election.

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4 min read

(This is the first part of our election series titled Voices of Gujarat.)

As Gujarat goes to polls, we’re not focusing on what the netas have to say, but listening to the real voices of Gujarat – the voters. From across the length and breadth of the state, we will bring to you as many diverse voices as we can.

From prohibition to GST, watch these five people talk about what will define their vote this election.

‘Police Not Willing to Implement Prohibition’: 45-Year-Old Homemaker

For 45-year-old Sonal Chawla, a homemaker in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar, the state’s development has been hindered by the thriving illegal liquor business.

She narrates a personal experience to point out at the complicity of the police in the illicit trade, which is, as per one estimate, valued at a whopping Rs 25,000 crore.

There is an illegal liquor shop just below my husband’s office. When he complained to the police about it, he realised that the police personnel themselves were drinking liquor there.

Prohibition has been in force in Gujarat ever since its inception in 1960, under the Bombay Prohibition Act, 1949. A revamped Gujarat Prohibition (Amendment) Act came into effect in March 2017, prescribing for more stringent control on manufacture, sale, and consumption of liquor, and stipulating a jail term of up to 10 years.

However, Chawla indicates that the illegal businesses will continue to flourish till the police and political parties lack the will to clamp them down.

“The trade flourishes only because the ruling party and police must be profiting a lot from it.”

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‘Modi ji is Doing The Best Work in Gujarat’: 27-Year-Old Mobile Store Employee

Twenty-seven years old, Shutar Ashwin is an unequivocal supporter of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Despite him not being the CM of Gujarat anymore, Ashwin credits Modi for improving the conditions of roads as well making education accessible for everyone.

Modi ji is doing the best work. The road infrastructure has improved in Gandhinagar. We don’t face problems during rains anymore. Education has been made accessible too. The students don’t have to pay as much as before — around Rs 15,000.

On education, Ashwin is perhaps referring to the Gujarat Self Financed Schools (Regulation of Fees) Act, which came into force in April this year. The Act imposes a ceiling on the fees charged by self-financed schools, affiliated to the CBSE, International Board, or the state board.

The fee ceiling had been fixed at Rs 15,000 for primary schools, Rs 25,000 for secondary schools and Rs 27,000 for higher secondary schools annually.

While introducing the bill in March, state education minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama had said, “Education is a service and not a business.”

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‘EVMs Need to Be Tamper-Proof,’ Says an Auto-Rickshaw Driver

Zakir Muhammad Ismail, 41, drives an auto-rickshaw in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad. The issue that he raises is an unusual one, that of EVM tampering.

The main issue is that of EVM tampering during elections, because of which the well-established parties can win. The EVMs should be made tamper-proof.

The issue of EVM tampering came into prominence after the last batch of state assembly elections — with opposition parties like AAP, Congress, and Trinamool Congress alleging that the machines were rigged to give an advantage to the BJP.

The controversy also prompted the Election Commission to hold an EVM “Open Challenge”, that saw hardly any participation.

Notably, the Gujarat Elections this year will see the use of EVM-VVPATs (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trails) in all polling booths of the state. The VVPAT machines are expected to act as a check against election rigging.

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‘Common Man Has to Bear the Brunt of GST’: General Store Owner

Kantibhai Patel, 43, is a provisions shop owner in Gandhinagar. Patel has concerns over the GST regime, saying it is the common man who has to bear the brunt because of its implementation.

Raising the issue of filing quarterly returns under the regime, he said:

Would the businessmen file their returns or would they do their work? Earlier, the person who used to write the accounts used to ask for a maximum of Rs 10,000. Now they ask for Rs 25,000 for filing returns. How will traders give money?

His statement comes close to the GST Council’s announcement (in its meeting on 6 October) of various measures to ease the burden of the tax regime on traders, such as allowing businesses with an annual turnover of less than Rs 1.5 crore to file quarterly instead of monthly returns.

PM Modi hailed these measures as an early Diwali gift for people.

Would such relaxations address the concerns of shop-owners like Kantibhai?

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‘Don't Keep Us in the Dark Over the Effect of Demonetisation’: Student

Nishi studies at the Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University (PDPU) in Rajkot, and wants the government to announce what demonetisation of November 2016 has accomplished after all these months.

It was claimed that demonetisation would expose black money and do away with corruption and that black money would be exposed. But no specific results have been made known to the public.

Back in September, the RBI had informed a parliamentary panel that it had “no information” regarding the amount of black money that had been exposed and done away with owing to demonetisation.

“There are reports which say that another demonetisation is in store. But we need to know the effect of last year’s note ban first.”

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