“We carried out our protest against the restaurant peacefully after informing the Bhoiwada police. It was the police who shut the eatery out of fear of violence, not us, but the restaurant owner is talking to news channels saying we acted like goons. We have now (on Monday evening) approached the BMC regarding the illegal construction at his establishment,” said Omshree Kadam, secretary, south central district Congress committee.

Lashing out at Shiv Sena-BJP alliance, which is in power at BMC, Mumbai Youth Congress chief Ganesh Kumar Yadav said, “The Shiv Sena-BJP combine ruling at the BMC is with the restaurant owner, and they are trying to do everything to defame our government through him. Despite our letter to the BMC regarding the illegal construction at the eatery, the civic body did not do anything because the owner works for their parties.”

The Bhoiwada police started investigating the matter after filing a non-cognisable complaint (NC) lodged by the Congress members against Srinivas Shetty, owner of Aditi restaurant. But after the furore, the Bhoiwada police have now lodged a case against the Congress workers under section 135 of the Bombay Police Act, for unlawful assembly.

“Shetty has not registered any complaint and has settled the matter, but Congress members have registered an NC under IPC section 501. Our aim is to investigate if Shetty did it on purpose or if he is affiliated to any other party. Though we think it was just the service tax issue that had angered Shetty,” said an officer from Bhoiwada police station.

At The Restaurant
The food at Aditi is unchanged, though the highlight there is now the bill. When one pays and gets the stamped bill back, it is disappointing to see that the incendiary protest has been replaced by the bland words, ‘Have a nice day’.

The manager on duty says that people are asking to see the bill, and talking about the tax protest, after the story made headlines. But there is neither any increase nor decrease in the number of customers, he says.

“We shut for some time after the dhamaal yesterday. But today we opened at 7 am as usual, and it has all been okay.”
Will the bill sport the unusual protest again? Probably not, said the manager, who asked to remain unnamed. “People have got the message. Why create trouble again?”

The new bill replaced with bland greetings

Owner’s Take
Shetty, the owner of the eatery, had on Tuesday told to Mid-day that he, as many other restaurateurs, was disgruntled with the Centre’s decision to introduce service tax for eating at all AC restaurants, which is burdensome for the industry. He had also said that he had a right to express his views in a free country.

And in these trying times, while his fraternity -- Association for Hotels And Restaurants (AHAR), the umbrella body of restaurateurs — has left him to fend for his own, Shetty feels the issue did not warrant the seething protest mounted by Congress workers. “I have my opinion and India being an independent country, I have the right to express my views.

Because of the government including all AC eateries in its purview for paying service tax, I suffered losses and I had to shut down the AC section of my restaurant altogether,” Shetty says.

He continued, “It’s been 15 days since I got this thing printed on the bills, and many customers came and congratulated me over this. Since I had received praise for the act, I did not think something like this would come up. In fact, I had thought of this idea when the law enforcing service tax at all AC restaurants came out. I had wanted to do it since a long time and I did it.”

Shetty pauses to ask a question that the public and clientele have been openly asking. “Where a tea costs a mere Rs 12 why would someone pay 5% service tax? This is not fair on the part of the government, and I chose this way to show my grievance especially since the government did not even hear our association when we went to discuss the matter with them.”


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