Thousands of artisans, including weavers and traditional handicraft makers, are opposing the high rate of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on their products. The GST has made these products out of the reach of the common man, they said. “The GST, ranging from 12 per cent on wool to 18 per cent on metallic crafts, has dented their sales and made handmade products expensive for the public,” artisans told The Tribune.
The artisans in the unorganised sector, who come from remote areas of the state, are getting a platform during exhibitions in cities by government-run corporations. But consumers have to pay a higher price for their products due to a high rate of GST, which, in turn, impacts the sale of products adversely. “It takes four days of regular work to make a ‘dungra’, a handmade brass weapon and a musical instrument used by locals, but we have to pay 18 per cent of GST to the government, which is not justified,” said Beli Ram, an artisan from the Kupvi area of Chopal.
“These handmade products are also used traditionally in the temples of local Gods and Goddesses and individually by ‘Panshi’ and ‘Shathi’ Rajputs of Shimla and Simaur districts as a mark of chivalry in the traditional sport of ‘Thotha’, while ‘Dungra’is used for dancing,” he said. “The cost of ‘Dungra’ is Rs 5,000, but we have to pay GST that makes it unprofitable for us,” he added.
“Weavers who eke out their living from handlooms and handicrafts narrated the same story. If we sell woollen products of more than Rs 1,000 value, we have to pay a GST of 12 per cent, which is wrong. The government charges less GST on machine-made stuff,” said Kewlu Ram, a weaver from Gahar, Kullu. Officials of state-run handloom, handicraft and wool federations blamed the Union Ministry of Textile for the high GST. “We have written to the ministry about the high rate of GST, but to no avail,” said a senior manager who is the in-charge of sales exhibitions in the state.