Disability rights groups protest GST

Disability rights organisations have written to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, protesting the decision of the GST Council to impose taxes on a range of aids used by persons with disabilities (PWDs) that were hitherto exempt from any tax.

They have also sent copies of their representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot.

“All devices and products such as Braille typewriter, hearing aid, crutches, etc are currently exempt from sales tax/VAT/excise/customs, but they are not exempt from GST,” said a statement issued by the Disability Rights Organisations Forum (DROF), a coalition of disability rights groups.

The GST Council has proposed to levy GST ranging from 5% to 18% on a range of equipment used by PWDs.

Pointing out that many of the items are beyond the reach of the common PWD, the note stated that levying GST on them “militates against the spirit and mandate of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016, which obliges the State to provide all aforesaid assistive devices, equipments and Braille books to persons with disabilities either free or at affordable cost.”

‘Manifold hike’

“A book in Braille even at present costs not less than five times more than the cost of a print version of the same book. Imposition of 12% GST on Braille paper will hike the costs of Braille books manifold,” said the note. The government has proposed a GST of 18% on Braille typewriters, 12% on hearing aids, 12% on Braille watches, and 5% on wheelchairs, crutches, and artificial limbs. “Imposing GST on products such as Braille paper, hearing aids, and wheelchairs is a threat to the basic rights of PWDs, such as the right to education and freedom of mobility,” said Muralidharan, Secretary of the National Platform of the Rights of the Disabled (NPRD).

“If the government truly cares about disabled persons, it can easily exempt these items from GST,” Muralidharan said, adding, “There is enough evidence that it knows its priorities. For instance, there is no GST on puja samagri such as rudraksha mala, panchamrit and chandan tika. But life-critical devices such as wheelchairs and crutches aren’t exempt. Does the government want us to stay at home all day and do puja?”

Call for withdrawal

“We urge the Finance Minister to prevail upon the GST Council to withdraw the proposal to impose GST on aids and appliances used by persons with disabilities,” said the DROF statement.

Disability rights organisations protesting the proposed GST rates include NPRD, National Federation of the Blind, National Association of the Blind, All Indian Federation of the Deaf, Human Rights Law Network, Sense International, Federation of Disability Rights, and Association of People Affected by Leprosy.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 7:04:44 PM |

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