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Prasanna’s Satyagraha is a reminder to the government that it should withdraw GST on hand made products

Counterview Desk
The National Alliance of People's Movements statement in support of the indefinite fast undertaken by Prasanna demanding "Zero Tax" on handmade products:
Noted theatre and social activist Prasanna has been on an indefinite fast from 14th October 2017 demanding “Zero Tax” on handmade products. He took the decision to launch the Satyagraha as several actions nation-wide making this just demand were not responded to by the GST Council of India. The National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) stands in solidarity with Prasanna and the demand made in support of the millions of the working class people of this country.
The Satyagraha has captured the imaginations of millions nation-wide and brought in a new awakening in the consumer. There is a growing collective demand to ensure India's governance keeps the promises made in the Constitution of India and the Freedom Movement, when making products by hand was to resist the forces of colonisation, that there is active and willing support to sustain crafts people and such others who depend on their hands and skills in building the nation.
Dr BR Ambedkar spoke extensively about the need for positive discrimination favouring handcrafting artisans and communities who are essentially rural, fisherfolk, pastoral, artisanal, tribal and such other natural resource dependent communities. This was also in acknowledgment of the State's role in correcting a major historical wrong committed against craftspeople who had been violently suppressed during British regime.
Gandhiji promoted the Charkha as the praxis of producing one's own essentials as the most profound act of sovereign existence, and that without damaging the Earth or causing injustices to others in one's life.
The idea was to build a just economic system that was both ecologically sustainable and ethical, at once. As a part of this movement for fundamental reform, the State was called upon to enable and empower communities who provided us with our daily needs with a wide range of hand made products, and which were produced without damaging the earth.
Positive discrimination favouring handmade products by not taxing them would be the most fundamental support the State can extend to provide these highly marginalised communities with a chance to secure a dignified existence, all with their own labour, craft and skill.
In introducing GST on handmade products, the GST Council of India, which is a negotiated process of all States and the Union Government, has comprehensively ignored the critical importance of such positive discrimination favouring the handicraft sector. Instead, handmade products have been heavily taxed, ranging between 5% and 28% (the highest tax bracket). The result of this will be mass im-povertisation of the rural and informal sectors that support millions of livelihoods by making handmade products.
Further, it will result in hand made products having no chance whatsoever of competing with mass-produced consumer goods, which are supported with a whole range of sops: such as easy credit supply, handsome tax breaks, easy and cheap access to natural resources, infrastructure, and also cheap labour, etc. 
This discrimination favouring the industrialised class is producing an economy that is highly divisive, where a miniscule percentage are hoarding all profits, while the costs are borne by the rest of us. Besides, the impacts are being passed on to future generations as well. Such an economy is unsustainable.
Prasanna’s Satyagraha is a reminder to the State, and the public at large, that we must now stop hurting the handcrafting sector any further. His indefinite fast is a protest against such deliberate negligence and injustice, a movement in civil disobedience against our own elected Government that has become insensitive to the very people that placed them in power.
This is a call to awaken the humanism in those who are now in power, and in all consumers, to ensure a just and ecologically sustainable society is made possible by each one of our actions: to refuse to pay unjust GST when buying handmade products and demand the GST Council introduces 'zero tax' on all handmade products in keeping with our Constitutional promise, especially that which is enshrined in Article 39:
"a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood;
b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;
c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;”
It is in this spirit that NAPM calls upon the government to withdraw GST on hand made products and provide relief and support to the millions of the working class people of the country who are already facing the burden of the crisis in economy due to demonetisation and GST. There is an ongoing crisis in the agrarian sector and the spate of farm suicides are not stopping and even the additional income, which these products generate to the families, are being taken away. It is imminent that government immediately withdraws these taxes and provide immediate relief.
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Signatories include Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan; Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey, Shankar, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan; Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan; P Chennaiah, Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and National Centre For Labour; Ramakrishnam Raju, United Forum for RTI; and Binayak Sen and Kavita Srivastava, People’s Union for Civil Liberties

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