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Tamil Nadu theatre owners call off strike as panel formed to look into local tax

LiveMint logoLiveMint 06-07-2017 PTI

Chennai: The four-day-old strike by more than 1,000 cinema hall owners in Tamil Nadu protesting levy of 30% local body tax in addition to the goods and services tax (GST) was on Thursday called off after the state government proposed setting up of a bipartite committee to resolve the issue.

The theatres will start functioning from Friday with the ticket prices set to go up from the present maximum of Rs120 with the addition of 28% of GST.

The decision to set up the committee comprising government and industry representatives was taken at a meeting between senior ministers and office-bearers of Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association (TNTODA) and other stakeholders earlier in the day on Thursday.

Emerging from the meeting which lasted for more than an hour, TNTODA president Abirami Ramanathan said the theatres would begin functioning from Friday as usual.

Top functionaries of Film Producers Council and South Indian Artistes’ Association also participated in the meeting held at the state secretariat.

Going ahead with their strike announced on 30 June on the eve of the GST rollout, the exhibitors shut their halls since 3 July citing their ‘inability’ to pay both taxes.

Opposition parties and prominent industry players, including superstar Rajinikanth, had appealed to the government to step in to resolve the issue, saying the livelihood of lakhs of people dependent on the film industry was at stake.

Thursday’s meeting came in the backdrop of the issue also figuring in the state assembly where the government said steps were being taken to find a solution. “We have decided to call off the strike which has been going on the for the last four days. More than 1,000 theatres were shut across Tamil Nadu. The daily loss (incurred due to closure of theatres) was estimated to be Rs 20 crore,” Ramanathan told reporters.

When asked how much one has to pay for a movie ticket with theatres set to resume operations, he said, “Similar to other products and services, along with the existing capped rate of Rs120 per ticket, 28% will be levied under GST”.

This means moviegoers might have to shell out a maximum of around Rs153 per ticket as against existing Rs120.

Ramanathan thanked finance minister D. Jayakumar, commercial taxes minister Veeramani, municipal administration minister S.P. Velumani, and information and publicity Minister Kadambur Raju for taking steps to break the impasse. He said the proposed committee would have eight members from the film industry.

“I do not know how many members will be representing the government,” he said.

The association had been demanding withdrawal of the local body tax of 30%, saying theatre owners would not be able to pay both GST and the local tax.

“We hope the committee’s decision will be in favour of us. We have been demanding removal of the local body tax,” he said.

Earlier in the day, the issue of closure of the theatres echoed in the assembly for the second time this week with the opposition raising it.

Leader of the opposition and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president M.K. Stalin raised the issue, saying imposing of the local body tax amounted to double taxation since the GST has been rolled out.

Besides Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan had also extended support to the strike by the association.

Rajinikanth, who is currently in the US for a health checkup, had on Wednesday requested the government to consider the film industry’s plea. Kamal Haasan expressed his gratitude to the “Kabali” star for taking up the issue.

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