On strike in protest against imposition of 5% Goods and Services Tax (GST) on unprocessed (raw) animal hides, the skinner community has now threatened to throw carcasses outside the residences and offices of government officials across Punjab. On Wednesday, the Municipal Corporation of Ludhiana disposed of at least 70 carcasses and buried them using machines and labour. The civic body fears outbreak of an epidemic as monsoon rains can make the matter worse and is trying to convince the skinners to resume work.
The community has, however, refused to resume work till they are exempted from 5% GST. Sundar Das Dhamija, chairman, Govind Godham, the largest gaushala in Ludhiana, said, “Situation will soon go out of hand if skinning community does not resume their work.” “Majority of animals we get are of those injured in accidents and 80% of these die despite best care given to them. In two days only, we have buried at least 40 carcasses in our own premises as stench and site was unbearable. There can be a crisis if situation is not controlled. Skinners should be exempted from GST immediately,” he said.
Krishan Lal, head of skinning community in Ludhiana, said, “If government fails to issue notification exempting us from GST by Saturday, we will dispose carcasses outside residences and offices of the government officials.”
Lal said, “We do not take any money for lifting dead animals from homes or farms or even dairy complexes of MC. The only income we earn is by selling skin of dead animals to leather tanneries and industries in Jalandhar. It is unorganised sector.
Now, should we start giving bills and asking for tax from the people who call us to take away their dead animals? We just earn Rs 100-115 from small animals and Rs 500-600 from big ones. What about the stray animals that we lift and skin? From where should we identify their owners and recover tax?”
On Wednesday, at least 50 big animals reportedly died at Haibowal and Tajpur dairy complexes and another 20 small animals died in various shelters, on roads etc.
YP Singh, senior veterinary officer, Ludhiana MC, said, “We are facing a crisis right now. At least 70-80 animal deaths are reported on a daily basis in Ludhiana, including MC-owned dairy complexes. We have deployed two lifting machines and 8-10 workers at Tajpur and Haibowal dairy complexes and are burying the animals to prevent an outbreak of disease. But even we are short of labour and machines and cannot do it on daily basis. This issue needs to be sorted out. Even the labourers do not agree to do this work due to stench and its nature.” He said the proposal for a carcass disposal plant worth Rs 9 crore was pending under Smart City project.
At least a hundred families in Ludhiana alone living in Haibowal, Tajpur road, Noorwala road etc are in job of lifting and skinning dead animals and all of them are extremely poor. “Imposing tax on raw animal hides is like starving those already living on empty stomachs. We are poor and that is why we do this job,” said Lal.
Ludhiana MC commissioner Jaskiran Singh the “matter is being pursued seriously”. “The tax imposed by central government. is not in our domain. But we are trying to persuade them to resume work. We have contacted Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu who has assured us of taking up the matter with central government,” he said. Ludhiana DC Pradeep Aggarwal said, “We have asked MC commissioner to make arrangements to lift and dispose carcasses till skinning community does not end strike.”