Noted theatre personality Prasanna, who had been on a hunger strike for five days for creating jobs for artisans, ended his protest on Friday evening after Union Minister DVS Sadananda Gowda assured him of a meeting with Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. The minister also assured Prasanna an expert committee formed by members of Grama Seva Sangha, a group which has been involved in efforts to promote handmade goods and its makers, will be given a platform.
Prasanna had started the strike with the theme 'Create Jobs, Protect Nature', and had been calling for creation of jobs to support artisans who make handmade goods with minimum loss to environment.
"We received assurances that this meeting will be facilitated shortly to place our demands before the Union government. We were looking for an official to take the next step to make our voices heard by the government to make handmade goods GST-free and demand a better prices," said a member of the Grama Seva Sangha.
The latest hunger strike is yet another agitation started by Prasanna and the Grama Seva Sangha - they had earlier protested in October 2017 demanding 0% GST on all handmade products and a better price for the products.
In February 2018, Prasanna had led a protest march walking 246 kilometres from Yadgir to Ballari district in the northern part of Karnataka. According to Prasanna, it was for weavers in the state, most of whom are based in the northern districts of Dharwad, Koppal, Yadgir and Gadag.
The expert panel formed by Grama Seva Sangha had come up with a way to classify 'handmade products' and made a list of 200 such products. The GST Council in 2018 brought 29 of these products under 0% GST category.
The panel has also defined terms – ‘sacred economy’ and ‘monster economy’ – and want the government’s focus to shift from the latter to the former. Sacred economy, according to the Grama Seva Sangha, is a system of production that utilizes a minimum of 60% human labor and 60% local raw material, and not more than 40% automation; and not more than 40% imported raw material. Local raw material is any raw material produced within a 100-km radius of the site of production and imported raw material is that material brought in from outside. They also say that a 'monster economy' is one that which contravenes all these stipulations.
According to Prasanna, the government in India is reviving the monster economy, and he instead wants the focus to be on reviving nature and the rural economy.
"If we have to really destroy the monster, we will have to destroy the monster economy first and bring to the fore, the sacred economy. Only the sacred economy can save jobs and save nature. You are the Prime Minister of our country and you are an able leader. We want you to take the initiative in this matter," reads a letter written by Prasanna to the Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, earlier this week.