Chhattisgarh 2018

Chhattisgarh Assembly elections 2018: When GST breaks the mould

Deft touch: A Dhokra artisan with the sculptures made by her in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday.  

Sitting cross-legged, head bent, carefully cutting black wax strips into small pieces and then meticulously embedding them on a Ganesha head — Dhaneshvari Netam follows this routine for nearly seven hours each day.

At Kondagaon in Bastar district, artisans work on Dhokra sculptures which use an age-old wax-casting technique. The oldest specimen using it is the famous dancing girl of Mohenjo-daro. This election season, the artisans have only one complaint: GST. The new tax regime, they say, is difficult to follow and has cut down their sales by at least half.

Over the years, market forces have altered the traditional technique. Beeswax, which was one of the primary inputs, is not used any more, since it is far more expensive and no longer easy to procure. The traditional animal figurines — horses, elephants, camels and so on — are slowly being replaced by more functional things such as paperweights, pen holders, candle holders, bottle openers and so on.

“Raman Singh is all right. A better educated person can understand it better, but I feel the Congress is over,” Ms. Netam says. She had dropped out of school after Class 2.

A few houses away, Pankaj Netam (33) is following in his father’s footsteps, but has stepped up the business by employing machines. “We buy scrap brass. The scrap dealer refuses to give us a bill. If we need a bill, then the cost of scrap will increase, which we can’t afford. Nobody is buying because the GST has pushed up the costs,” he says. But he does not pin the blame on Chief Minister Raman Singh.

Not everyone is able to afford upgrades. In Rakesh Puyam’s yard, horse figurines covered in clay are lined up. His home is packed with furniture and his son is glued to a smartphone watching videos.

“The government has cut down on its purchases. We are dependent on private buyers,” he says. He is vocal about the Raman Singh government’s indifference towards the artisans. He is equally disillusioned with the GST.

“There are no buyers, we are hardly able to sell six or seven sculptures a month,” he added. To add to this, he says, the GST has increased paperwork, which most of them find it difficult to handle. “I dropped out of school in the sixth standard. All I know is to make these sculptures, but how do I do the GST calculations,” Mr. Puyam asks.

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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:51:18 AM |

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