Slam Drabu for misleading the community
Srinagar: Scores of artisans and businessmen associated with Kashmir handicraft industry held a demonstration on Thursday demanding rollback of Goods and Services Tax (GST) from the sector.
The protesters assembled at Pratap Park in the heart of the Srinagar city while carrying placards and banners in their hands which read, “Rollback GST, Handicrafts should go GST-free”.
Khurshid Ahmad, who represented Pride of Kashmir, a carpet manufacturing and export firm, while addressing the gathering said that they were protesting on behalf of every artisan and businessmen associated with the industry. “Our industry is already on the verge of extinction and the implementation on GST is the last nail in its coffin,” he said.
The protesters said the handicraft sector was surviving because of the poor artisans who put their sweat and blood to maintain its dignity despite the challenges from replica products manufactured in different parts of India and outside. “This industry was mostly dependent on non-residents of India and foreign clients, but how will it survive under GST when we have to pay 18-20 percent tax. How will we pay such huge amount of tax when there are fewer profit margins,” Ahmad said.
Bashir Ahmad Rather, another speaker said the graph of export of handicraft items since 2008 has come down from Rs 2400 Crore to Rs 1200 Crore. “There are more than 350000 artisans dependent on this sector who earn meager Rs 200 to Rs 300 on daily basis. Apart from the artisans, the manufactures, exports and retailers would be affected,”he said.
Ashiq Hussain, a member of carpet association said it was the ill-luck of Kashmiris that the state government surrendered its financial status to GST council. “State Government claims a veto power; they should make use of it for our betterment. They should use it because handicraft industry is about to die. If the state government doesn’t roll back GST from handicraft sector we will hit the streets along-with our families,” he said.
The protesters carried a spinning wheel on their shoulders in the form of procession from Pratap Park to press enclave to express solidarity with the artisan community.
Earlier, finance minister Haseeb Drabu had asked the delegation of various handicraft bodies to ‘report’ to Banquet Hall in Srinagar, after the reports of protests reached him.
The delegation briefed the minister about the repercussion of GST on the industry. The minister promised the artisans that they would not be charged GST more than five percent.