Social workers are worried that this will affect the educational access of PWDs much more.

From Braille books to crutches GST regime is taxing essentials of persons with disabilitiesImage for representation
news GST Sunday, June 11, 2017 - 16:26

The GST regime is going to come down hard on persons with disabilities (PWDs); activists say that items essential for PWDs are all set to be taxed under the new GST regime, and this is only going to make life difficult for the disabled in the country.

In Telangana, where less that 5% of PWDs are employed, the situation will be much worse.

“It is like taking away their right for basic needs. These articles are important and now they will be much more expensive,” says Hari Babu, director of Centre for Action on Disabled Rights and Empowerment (CADRE), an NGO working for welfare of PWDs.

Under GST, commodities such as Braille paper, Braille typewriters, crutches and wheelchairs, hearing aids are expected to be taxed between 5% and 18%. Currently, these items are reportedly exempt from any form of excise and customs duty, however, from July 1, these commodities will be expensive, say NGOs.

Social workers are worried that, this will have a huge effect on the PWDs.

“This will be a financial burden for the NGOs who provide free of cost aids to the PWDs. NGOs who are currently helping 500 PWDs will be able to help only 300 people, because the cost of commodities they are providing would drastically increase,” says Harika, founder of Anarghya Foundation, an NGO works for the welfare of children and disabled persons.

Effect on education of persons with disabilities

According to Hari Babu, less than 60% of the PWD population in Telangana is educated. By imposing a 5% tax on on Braille textbooks for blind students, the government is only making books more expensive and education inaccessible, he says.

“There several disabled persons, who are struggling to get an education, so that they can be independent. Government should estimate, how many can really afford to get aids which can help them. Hearing aids are an essential commodity for persons with hearing disabilities. This makes them confident that they can study and work like any other person without disability. However, all this is now expensive,” says Hari.

“On one hand government wants development for PWDs, however, on the other hand they are making their needs inaccessible. For instance, Braille typewriters are presently being sold for nearly Rs 32,000, but under the GST regime, they will have an additional charge of Rs 5000,” says Harika.

Activists say this would not only affect a person with disabilities financially but also emotionally.

“There are several cases where, persons with disabilities have been suffering depression as they are unable to be independent. Some feel that they have been a burden to their family. If crutches, wheelchairs, walking frames, tricycles, artificial limbs, rehabilitation aids, hearing aids, Braille textbooks, Braille watches, etc become expensive, this might even make them feel that they are a financial burden for their family,” says Hari Babu.

Meanwhile, the number of people buying these items would also come down. He says that nearly 80% of the persons with disability in Telangana will not be able to afford the items after GST kicks-in.

The differently-abled persons either get their commodities at subsidised prices from government institutions or from NGOs, and are also not easily available in the market. The NGOs expect the availability of the goods to also be affected.

“Instead of coming at a lesser cost, they will now be not easily available. The subsidised items are very low quality, so people who can afford them, prefer items from market. This will have a huge effect on their mental state. When a family is not be able to afford it, they would limit the PWD’s need. They would buy only what is most important,” says Hari.

Similarly he says, the wheelchairs are basic needs of PWDs, not a luxury item.

“Government is making things worse for them. We are opposing this move, and have decided to write a letter to Centre on these issues,”says Hari.


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