Relief is in store for a section of traders from the steep hike in trade license fees imposed by the Jorhat Municipal Board (JMB) from April this year.
The annual general board meeting held on Tuesday resolved to decrease the trade license fees for a section of traders and in certain categories.
The increase had been vociferously protested against by business men and more than 20 traders groups including Upper Assam Chamber of Commerce based here.
JMB chairperson Jayanta Barkakati said that after the petitions were received, the JMB did a relook and found that a revision was required.
“We found that in some instances especially in grocery stores, the hike had been steep. In some shops where the trade license fee was Rs 1000 per annum. We had increased to Rs 3000, based on the fact that along with groceries they were selling cosmetics and maybe stationery. This hike we found was too high which would adversely affect profits of small shops,” he said.
Barkakoty said that in the case of malls, the increase from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 would remain in place as malls could afford this amount per annum.
He said that licenses were issued for 700 trades and the members had been given a new list which they would peruse in the next week or so and then the revision would be effected after another meeting and discussion.
Barkakoty said that the increase was overdue as more than five years had elapsed since the last hike in 2012.
“As a local governing body we have to generate our own funds. Earlier we had 18 vehicles, now we have 40. There are lot of other expenses. What we have heard is that the government will not be bearing the cost of salaries of the employees after sometime. We have been asked to become self sufficient,” he said.
The Upper Assam Chamber of Commerce and other trade organizations had protested against the arbitrary and steep increase, some to the tune of 300 to 500 per cent instead of a 20 to 30 per cent, which is normal.
Borkakoty, however, justified this by stating that increasing the trade license fee by 20 per cent would be only Rs 1200, which is nothing much given the fact that this would be in place for the next five years.
A source said that not only was the fee hike too much but the procedure of calling a meeting to discuss the hike with trade bodies and other board commissioners had not been followed as per rules. The whole thing had been dumped on the traders without prior notice.
“Not only had the traders been made aware of the hike but we’re taken aback by the three to five fold increase in some cases only when they had come to renew their licenses,” he said.