JAGIROAD, Aug 4 - The wholesale market of dry fish at Jagiroad, which caters to the need of this commodity for the entire North-east, might close down if the Government does not stop levying GST over it. The site of the market already looks deserted for want of import of the item from the coastal areas, as the traders there have stopped the manual processing of fresh fish due to imposition of this new tax. The whole market of dry fish does an average transaction of Rs 40 crore per annum providing avenues of livelihood to many a needy people of the area apart from generating a steady source of income for a number of entrepreneurs of the locality.
The market has been contributing handsomely to the socio-economic uplift of the community by playing a catalytic role in generating direct and indirect avenues of livelihood to thousands of people.
Supply of dried fish is made from the coastal areas of Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal. The trade on the item has suddenly come to a halt leading to an uncertain future for the traders and the suppliers.
A spokesman of the local dried fish traders association pointed out that the dried fish is considered a perishable good. �There is also no tax prevalent upon the trading of fresh fish. Dried fish is not a processed food. It is made by drying manually the fresh fish in its state of rottenness by wage labourers in the coastal areas. Therefore, any tax on dried fish is deemed to be injudicious,� he said.
For almost all the tribal people of the North-east and a chunk of other people of the region, dried fish is an indispensable part of their traditional food culture. The GST on the item may therefore deprive them of their most sought after food item. �Further, dried fish is one of the poor people�s food and imposition of GST upon it would increase its retail price causing anguish in the minds of these people,� pleaded another trader of the item.
Jagiroad Dry Fish Marchants� Association including the local people of the area too have urge the Government to consider withdrawal of any proposal for imposing of GST upon the commodity saying that closure of the dried fish market will retard the socio-economic development of the locality by aiding unemployment. When contacted, Munin Borthakur, a senior citizen of the area, who was associated with the market since its inception, told this correspondent that the origin of the market can be traced back to the early sixties. At that time, in the swampy, low-lying areas surrounding Jagiroad in Morigaon district, a dry fish market appeared.
The market started growing in stature and fish from different regions of the State were sold in the market. In 1965, dry fish from Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu were imported with the gradual expansion of the market. Initially, the market catered to the local needs, but with its expansion, neighbouring States like Meghalaya, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh entered the market and Jagiroad became an important dry fish trading centre of the North-East Region.
The market generally operated on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There are now about 200 dry fish shops which are operated by mahaldars. Over 4000 people are directly or indirectly associated with this thriving trade. The price of fish varies according to size and quality. Sea fish and fresh water fish like bamla, puthi, misa range from Rs 10 to Rs 110 per kilogram. The market situated very near the Jagiroad Railway Station is well served by rail and NH-37. The famous dry fish trade is controlled by the Jagiroad Dry Fish Merchants� Association. The association has to pay a substantial amount of money as taxes. The association donates parts of its profits to schools, colleges, organisations and sports activities, claimed the president and the secretary of the Jagiroad Dry Fish Marchants� Association Kamal Dey and Rajesh Deka respectively. The association in tandem with the Jagiroad Lion�s Club has also constructed footpaths and drains in the market area, they added.