After the alternatives of machine-made and cheap products of China hurt the bamboo and cane handicrafts industry in Assam, the artisans have a fresh tension- The Goods and Services Tax (GST). They claim that they are already suffering from big loss and now the GST is pushing the industry of cottage towards near extinction.
A 31-year-old, artisan named Sankar Das lives in Guwahati is struggling to protect the ethnic and traditional craft alive and the GST has made it harder for him.
“Raw materials are very expensive, wages of workers have developed, business has gone decreased and we haven’t registered for GST as the procedure seems cumbersome,” said Sankar.
He is flagging the concerns of at least four lakh artisans in the state. As raw bamboo and cane are taxed at 5% after GST, and finished products climb the 12% to 28% bracket, there are hardly any buyers left, he said.
“Sales are down by 50%. After we offered huge discounts for Diwali, sales have picked, but it will be the same story after the festivals,” said IA Lashkar, Deputy Manager of Purbashree, a government of India enterprise.
The GST, which was introduced on July 1, subsumed all levies charged by the Centre and states. However, three months later, many businesses, particularly small and medium-sized ones, are struggling with the transition as well as complications such as getting refunds under the GST. The rising transport costs and cheaper Chinese products have only added to their worries.
“We can’t understand the logic behind high GST. We are unable to compete with the Chinese furniture,” said Naveen Sood, secretary, Assam Handicraft Manufacturers Association.
Handicrafts industry is not just a business, it’s part of the Assamese culture. The skill is dying, unable to compete with machine-made and foreign products and the government must take steps to preserve the culture and offer relief to encourage production, say artist collectives.
“It is severely affecting employment. So many small entrepreneurs in this sector have shut shop in the last three months,” said NN Rana Patgiri, managing director, Bodoland Regional Apex Weavers & Artisans Cooperative Federation Ltd. (BRAWFED), an organization for the development of handicrafts and handbook in the Bodoland region of Assam.