The introduction of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) is hitting the handloom industry hard. Apart from causing massive changes, it has put this labour intensive sector of the economy at unrest. The question worrying all? Will the industry break under pressure of the GST regime?
The handloom sector comes second to agriculture in terms of number of people employed in it with 43.32 lakh people. Weavers are mostly from the vulnerable sections of the society and there is a higher ratio of women being employed in the handloom sector, as high as 77.9%. The industry is based in the rural areas and nearly 36.9% are below the poverty line, and most of the workers belong to the informal sector. The output of the sector is nearly 14% of the total textile production, contributing to about 4% in the GDP.
Rising yard prices and shrinking markets for the finished goods of the handloom sector combined together push the workers into misery and debt traps that is often ending with suicides.
Md. Rafiq, a weaver from Baruch, whose family has been in this business for the pasr 160 says, that he is not bothered by what the government imposes on them as tax. “On an average, we produce of a kilogram of cloth everyday and we are earning about 6000 rupees. A 5% tax will put me down and I won’t be able to continue. I will sell the machine and probably start driving a car. Mr Modi has himself awarded me a medal for my family’s work while he was the chief minister of Gujarat, I am hoping to not let go of my family legacy,” he told SheThePeople.
An employee of Eka, a boutique selling handlooms said, “I think there is a minimum output clause, so not all weavers will have to pay. But some weavers are very well doeven in the handloom sector and should be liable to pay the GST, since it’s applicable to for all. As of now it sounds like a nuisance but it will get better in time for sure.”
The Erode Handloom Cloth Merchants Association, which is again appealing to finance minister Arun Jaitley to withdraw the 5% GST rate on textiles, is planning an indefinite strike from Wednesday if its demand is not accepted.