Transport and trade union on Friday observed a “Bharat Bandh” or countrywide shutdown to protest the rising fuel prices and “draconian” amendments to Goods and Services Tax rules, PTI reported.

The Confederation of All India Traders had said that 40,000 traders associations would back the protest call at 1,500 places across the country. All India Transporters Welfare Association also said that it will observe a “chakka jam” or road blockade.

Various markets in the Capital remained open during the bandh, with many saying that despite supporting the cause, they did not want to suffer another day of losses. The protest was not enforced at Connaught Place market, reported PTI. Businesses were unaffected in Punjab and Haryana as shop owners voiced their support for the cause, but added that they could not afford to down shutters.

Visuals from West Bengal’s Birbhum district showed shuttered shops and empty markets.

Road transport services were also affected in some places. In Bhubaneswar, fewer vehicles were seen plying on the roads.

The strike will not hinder the functioning of medical shops, milk booths and other essential services, Mint reported.

Confederation of All India Traders Secretary-General Praveen Khandelwal had said last week that there were 950 amendments to GST rules over the last four years. “Issues related to glitches in GST portal and the continuous increase in compliance burden are the major lacunae in the tax regime,” he had said.

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The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body of farmers’ unions, also extended support to the countrywide shutdown. “We highly regret such a dismal attitude and picture of the GST, which has compelled the trade union leaders attending the conference to call for a Bharat Trade Bandh,” the organisation said, according to Hindustan Times. The organisation urged farmers to peacefully join traders and transporters in their protest.

Associations of chartered accountants, tax advocates and small industries also extended support to the protest.

Protests by Opposition parties

Opposition parties also staged protests against the fuel price rise in several places. In Patna, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav rode a bicycle in protest.

In Jammu, Shiv Sena members set a scooter on fire to register their protest against the rise in fuel prices, ANI report.

The prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas have been rising sharply over the last few weeks. On Thursday, the price of domestic liquified petroleum gas cylinders was again increased by Rs 25. This was the third hike in the cost of cylinders in a month.

Opposition parties have blamed the Centre for the exorbitant fuel prices, accusing it of raising taxes to scoop out the benefit reaped from international oil rates plunging to a two-decade low in April and May. They also accused the government of profiting off the suffering of people amid the coronavirus crisis.