Say the tax is going to hit them hard
SRINAGAR: The handicraft traders in Kashmir are planning to take to streets against the imposition of Goods and Service Tax (GST) after government failed to roll it back.
The protest will likely be held on August 3, two days before GST council, the empowered all India body that can decide matters related to imposition of new tax regime, meets.
Farooq Shah, General Secretary of the All Kashmir Carpet Manufactures and Traders Association, said that they will hold a peaceful protest at Lal Chowk in the first week of August to remind the state government that imposition of tax on handicrafts will hit the handicrafts sector.
The association is a conglomerate of 10 different trade bodies associated with the handicrafts. Farooq says that the government has levied tax on handcrafts for the first time in many decades. Earlier, to ensure the promotion of the handicrafts, the government never levied such tax.
“We have held many meetings with the government, including the chief minister and finance minister, who have assured us that GST will not be levied on handicrafts. But now they have decided a 12 percent tax (will apply), which is going to ruin us,” Farooq said. “We are hitting the streets.”
The General secretary said that the decision was taken in a meeting where handicrafts dealers, washers, repairers, manufactures, weavers, traders, dyers, designers, stretchers, and binders participated. All these are earning their livelihood from the trade.
The trade bodies are again meeting today, in which others bodies related to the handicrafts trade will be invited to discuss the further course of action.
Handicrafts, the centuries old trade, is a mainstay of economy in Jammu and Kashmir. It was introduced during the Muslim period and is famous for its purity across the world.
GST was extended to Jammu and Kashmir a week after it was imposed in India. Traders, pro-India politicians and pro-freedom leaders oppose the tax law in J&K. They believe that its extension has eroded the autonomy of the state.
An online petition was also started in support of the roll back of GST on handicraft items by Sheikh Ashiq, a known exporter and former president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Ashiq is also a member of committee of administrators, J&K region at the Carpet Export Promotion Council (CEPC).
“GST on handicrafts will affect the trade in bad way,” Ashiq said. “Reason is that a manufactured handicraft item cannot be sold the same year it was produced, which means a businessman has to invest additional money in the form of tax, and wait for years for its return. What will we do in this situation.”
Handicrafts, according to Ashiq, was hit badly by the 2014 floods. At present, the sector is trying to recover the losses, though they seem impossible because the countries where handicrafts were mainly sold are war-torn. “In this situation, how would we be able to earn more and pay the government?” Ashiq questioned.