The implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST), has started to take its toll on the Handicraft sector in Kashmir Valley. The worried artisans and traders in Ganderbal claim that the indigenous Handicraft sector has suffered heavily due to multiple taxes levied under this act.
Although Government had exempted Handicraft sector from Value Added Tax(VAT) and other taxes like service tax, but under the new central tax regime the sector has been taxed at 12 percent, alleged the traders.
The willow wicker artisans in Ganderbal district, which is considered the Hub for willow wicker sector are also adversely effected due to this decision.
The people associated with craft whose earning has dwindled over the years now lament that the new tax regime has hit the already ailing craft and the burden will be shifted on the artisans.
“The middle man will further decrease the rates of the products and we will suffer,” said Ghulam Hassan,a willow worker.
According to people associated with this craft, the craft was the main source of earning for thousands of people spread across many villages. But with the implementation of GST it has affected the livelihood of hundreds of these workers.
“It was our only source of earning but now we are deprived of that,” said Abdul Rashid, a willow worker.
Mudasir Ahmad, an educated youth, who is associated with the trade said that the implementation of the GST has left them in a tight spot.
“The craft had given us a ray of hope and was our main source of earning since we were not able to get a government job. But now if things continue the way they have been during the past two months then we are sure to be jobless,” he added.
“Lot of educated youths like me were engaged with this craft but now we are sitting idle at our homes,” he said.
According to a local trader, who is involved in exporting willow wicker products, implemntaion of GST has forced us to relook on the rates of different products which will affect the willow wicker craft.
“Implementation of GST will certainly put additional burden on the artisans and other people associated with this craft,” he said.
Pertinently, there are around 20 Lakh artisans who are associated with various handicraft trades.
“Putting handicraft sector under the ambit of taxation will not directly affect the artisans but yes it will indirectly leave a deep impact on this industry,” said Deputy Director Handicrafts department, Zeenat Ara.
She said the industry was losing its vigour and needed a special attention or else Jammu Kashmir would lose this ancestral gift.
“To improve and promote the deteriorating health of handicraft in the state, we need to appoint Rehbar-e-Dastakar on the same lines as the government has done in the education and health sector ,” Ara said.