The Goods and Services Tax (GST), introduced on July 1, 2017, is a direct threat to 44 lakh weaver families and 68 lakh craftspeople who mostly live in rural areas, says the Federation of Handloom Organisations. It’s the first time since Independence that handmade, swadeshi goods are being taxed, the federation adds.
GST, which doesn’t mention handmade goods at all, has led to a 5-10 per cent increase in the cost of handlooms. This will affect demand for these products at a time when handlooms already face stiff competition from powerloom imitations.
The dwindling numbers of small-scale, pre-loom service providers like sizers (who starch yarn) and dyers are also being taxed under GST. This additional financial burden may hasten their departure from the occupation and adversely affect weaving, which comes next in line in the handloom process.
Besides, paying GST every month requires an IT infrastructure, digital literacy and access to chartered accountants, all of which will be very difficult and expensive for rural artisans.
In a change.org petition to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, the federation said, “The decision to bring anything handmade on par with machine-made will threaten the livelihoods of over 1 crore families of which 50% are women. We appeal to the Government to act quickly and decisively and remove handmade from GST to protect existing skilled livelihoods.”
In this context, PARI’s articles, photo essays and videos on weavers – their incomparable skills, rich weaving traditions and the growing threats to their survival – are even more relevant. You can read/view them here.
(Photo: Shreya Katyayini)