Actor Irrfan Khan, theatre personality Prasanna Heggodu, filmmaker MS Sathyu were among a number of people who called for the Centre to reduce the Goods and Services Tax on handmade goods to zero while speaking at a symposium organised by Grama Seva Sangha in Bengaluru.
Drawing attention to the condition of workers who make handmade goods in India, Irrfan said that India can set an example to the rest of the world by promoting handmade goods. “Sixty percent of India’s population is involved in making handmade goods and we should take a greater interest in the living and working conditions of the people,” he said.
Irrfan was inaugurating the symposium alongside activist Uzramma, theatre personality and filmmaker MS Sathyu and livestock activist Neelkanthmama at St Joseph Institute of Management.
Grama Seva Sangh held the symposium to promote handmade goods in the city. It comes two months after the organisation staged a tax denial satyagraha in a bid to bring down the GST on handmade products to zero.
Prasanna Heggodu, a theatre personality who went on a fast in a bid to highlight the grievances faced by those in the handmade goods sector, admitted that the process of making goods by hand is slow, but is holistic and closer to nature.
“It may appear economically inefficient, but is ecologically sustainable and can be made socially just. Machine-making is faster and appears economically more efficient, but causes extensive damage whilst also depriving large sections of society of their wealth. Machine-making is also a natural ally of neo-liberal economic systems whose methods entail appropriation and aggregation of wealth, and essentially is an antithesis to cooperation and empowerment,” Prasanna said.
Singer MD Pallavi discussed the use of technology in music. “Violinists and percussionists have been displaced by the overemphatic presence of musical machines and now they are forced to become taxi drivers to eke out a living,” she said.
Handmade products are being taxed for the first time in the GST taxation system and the Grama Seva Sangh are continuing to protest against the tax levied on handmade goods.
At the symposium, the experts present urged the GST council to remove taxation on handmade products. They also urged the Central and State governments to take measures to get a better price for handmade products and asked for a separate ministry to be made for it.
They also asked the government to define handmade products as any product that uses not less than two-thirds of the hand process and not more than one-thirds of the machine process.