Hundreds of sculptors protested in Jaipur on Wednesday demanding a rollback of Goods and Services Tax (GST) on idol sculpting stating that they have “always” been exempted from taxation. “We are demanding rollback of GST on sculpting. Never before have we been brought under the tax net as we create idols of gods and goddesses,” said Satya Prakash Natha, spokesperson of Moortikala Laghu Udyog Mandal Sansthan which staged a protest in Jaipur under the banner of Moortikala Sangharsh Samiti on Wednesday.
“Moreover, we were first told that we fall under the 28 per cent tax slab then today we were told by the district administration that we will be under 12 per cent tax slab. Irrespective of the tax slab, we want a complete rollback,” Natha said. The sculptors had shut shops about ten days ago and called a ‘chetawni (warning) rally’ on July 3. Following its “success”, they called a protest in Jaipur on Wednesday. “Levying GST on sculptors of Gods is an attack on Hinduism,” a publicity pamphlet by the Samiti read.
“Qasam Ram ki khate hain, milkar GST hatwate hain (We swear in Ram’s name that we will together effect the rollback of GST),” one of the protest banners read. Some sculptors dressed themselves as gods and goddesses in the protest. Hundreds of sculptors accompanied by sadhus marched from Khazane Walon ka Rasta to Jaipur Collectorate. “We have been saying that it is temples and religious organisations which buy our idols. And they are run mostly by donations. So does the government want to tax these donations? They should consider Hindu sentiments,” said Pandit Kamal Bhardwaj, convenor of the Sangharsh Samiti. “Then there are some inimical problems. When we buy stones, we cannot tell whether it is spotted from within or not, whether it will turn out to be brittle, etc. And we don’t want all sculptors to be put in the same tax bracket, we only want the sculptors of gods to be exempted from GST,” he said.
“We had earlier met Union Ministers Arjun Ram Meghwal and Santosh Kumar Gangwar and were assured positively. However, this was given a miss in the GST Council meet,” Bhardwaj said. The Samiti submitted a memorandum with the District Collector Wednesday and called off its protest after an assurance by the district administration. “We are told that our concerns will be taken up in the next GST Council meeting and now look forward to it,” Bhardwaj said.