Livelihood of 8,000 weavers in Bengal’s Jangipara block jeopardised
There was barely any space for more than one person in the cramped mud-walled room as two handlooms occupied most of it. Basudeb Das, 76, whose family is engaged in weaving traditional cotton saris — known as ‘taant’ in Bengal — was staring blankly at the wall on a Saturday afternoon. Before the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was introduced in July 1, the room witnessed hectic activities of weaving saris and was filled with the clattering sound of handlooms.
But with the confusion whether there is any GST on ‘taant’ saris business for these weavers has almost stopped for about a month. However, five per cent GST has been imposed on cotton and yarn, raw materials for ‘taant’ saris. Mr. Das is one among at least 8,000 weavers in the Rajbalhat area in Hooghly district’s Jangipara block whose livelihood has been jeopardised due to the confusion regarding GST. Weavers in other districts such as Nadia, Bankura and Purba Bardhaman are facing a similar crisis. According to the Handloom Census of India (2009-10) there are 4.07 lakh households in Bengal involved in the sector.
“The producers (sari merchants) — who provide the weavers with cotton yarn and other raw materials for the sari and then sell the finished product — have nearly stopped giving us any work due to the confusion about GST,” Mr. Das told The Hindu. Earlier Mr. Das used earn about 600 a week but after the introduction of GST it has come down to 200 a week. He along with his ailing wife and a daughter are now struggling to meet both ends meet.
According to the producers they are yet to get any idea whether there is any GST imposed on ‘taant’ saris. Moreover, they do not have the required infrastructure for the billing process under GST norms. “We are totally clueless whether there is any GST on ‘taant’ saris as well as the process of billing under GST,” one of the producers of ‘taant’ saris in Rajbalhat Susanta Sil said. He also said that as a result it had become “extremely difficult” for them to sell the saris at markets wholesale markets in Kolkata’s Burrabazar as well as to buyers from other Bihar and Odisha as the buyers were asking for “bills prepared as GST norms.”
For the weavers in Nadia district the situation is equally grim. The district is known for the famous variant of ‘taant’ sari namely ‘Jamdani’ and ‘Tangail’. While the name ‘Jamdani’ is derived from Persian word ‘Jam’ meaning a cup and ‘dani’ meaning ‘container’, ‘Tangail’ originates from a district of the same name in Bangladesh. “We can’t even buy yarn without going through the complicated billing process under GST. If such a situation continues I will have no option but to shut down my business,” said Asit Das, a weaver from district’s Shantipur town.
When contacted Bengal’s Minister of State for the Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises and Textile Swapan Debnth only said: “The weavers in Bengal are facing severe inconveniences due to the confusion surrounding GST.”