Thiruvananthapuram

GST may hit tribal welfare

Tribals and forest-dependent communities across the country may lose a significant share of the revenue earmarked for their community welfare activities to the Goods and Service Tax regime.  

Tribals and forest-dependent communities across the country may lose a significant share of the revenue earmarked for their community welfare activities to the Goods and Service Tax regime (GST).

The revenue from the not-for-profit souvenir shops and other ecotourism facilities offered by these vulnerable communities in tiger reserves and protected areas may come under the GST, it is apprehended.

While 50% of the revenue generated from these activities is used for community welfare activities, the rest is used for the management of protected areas. It is estimated that there are around 50 lakh people, including tribals, among those living in the fringe areas of the 50 tiger reserves of the country. Almost all protected areas of the country have ecotourism programmes.

The turtle shop of Thekkady, selling souvenirs and run by the Mannan tribe members, earns around ₹1 crore annually. The tribals of Vanchivayal and Mannakudy produce certified organic pepper. Paliyans, Mannans, and Malampandarams of the Periyar Tiger Reserve (PTR) are engaged in the collection of non-timber forest produce. There are 11 community-based ecotourim programmes in the PTR, including bamboo rafting and boating. Annually, these programmes together earn around ₹5 crore, which may come under the new tax regime, says a wildlife manager.

The accommodation facilities like Bamboo Groves in Thekkady, which is run by a group of forest watchers, would be charged 24% tax. The GST regime would lead to reduced allocation of funds to welfare activities of these sections, he said.

The funds from these activities are pooled to Periyar Tiger Foundation and the coordination committee of Professional Group of Eco Development Committees.

Seeks tax exemption

A conference of Chief Wildlife Wardens of Tiger Range States and Field Directors of Tiger Reserves, which concluded at Thekkady last week, sought tax exemption for the Tiger Conservation Foundations and other similar bodies.

According to Gorji P. Mathachen, Field Director, PTR, confusion prevailed over taxation on the revenue from the ventures run by tribals and others. There needed to be a clarification on these aspects, he said.

The resolution, titled Periyar Declaration, also called for extension of principles of tiger management to areas adjoining the tiger reserves.

The policies and packages of rehabilitation of people in tiger reserves and protected areas should be extended to all willing forest-dwelling populations.

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Printable version | May 3, 2021 1:50:02 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Thiruvananthapuram/gst-may-hit-tribal-welfare/article19704575.ece

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