Last week, I was privileged to watch a wooden block-maker at work in Andhra Pradesh.
I am always drawn to this craft and hence could not resist buying few wooden blocks which had vintage design and skillfully carved. What I chose was 5 colored complex blocks hand-carved by these master craftsmen. Before leaving, I spent some time with the craftspeople and listened to their achievements and challenges.
Later, I was handed over the bill for my purchase with 18% GST. I can very well pay the tax, but my thought was more about taxing itself. Especially, when most of the luxurious designer garments are sold at 12% GST, how did we end up taxing 18% on this rural craft?
I might have some clues about it.
* While big companies who support solar/wind energies and rainwater harvesting get subsidy/sops, somehow wooden block carving is not seen as a green-craft, hence its taxed.
* As we are busy trying to reach Mars and build symbolic statues, extending a helping hand to a rapidly vanishing heritage craft may not be our priority, hence they are taxed.
* Because we have failed to understand that a not-so-well-educated block maker is a Botanist who understands the wood and its grain, an environmentalist who knows which tree-how-when to cut, a mathematician who knows the size of the block and its repeat, an artist who can draw the most complicated design freehand. we have been conveniently taxing them.
* As the hand-block carving community is small and lobby-less, marginalized and voiceless, it's easier to tax them.
* Though we know that this craft supports many block-printers and they, in turn, consume a lot of woven fabrics, we still prefer to ignore the value of their work and tax them.
* As we prefer to see all businesses under the same tax ambit without understanding the nuances of the craft, we have taxed them.
* In spite of knowing that the block making craft can provide employment in the village itself and to an extent stop migration to nearby cities, we still prefer to ignore the facts and tax them.
* The apathy in our society which does not see our craftsmen as the guardians of our indigenous craft, has led us in taxing them.
With regards to handicraft, M.K.Gandhiji once said "It is in my firm opinion that no culture has treasures as rich as ours"
Yet we have taxed our own culture.