'Taxing-times for gods '
For weeks now, the historic Moortikaar’s (idol craftsmen) of Jaipur, whose profession is as old as the city itself, haven’t opened their shops.
While discarded statues gaze over the deserted lanes of moorti – bazaar , thousands of idols of gods and goddesses belonging to Hindu, Jain and also Buddhism and Christian faiths, carved on order by customers for various temples or homes are lying locked and shuttered. Reason – for the first time ever, the Goods and Service Tax launched on 1st of July 2017 has made these marble idols too, taxable.
The 28% GST on these delicate forms of faith has suddenly made the art, which is being inherited since centuries in families, economically unviable.
Satya Prakash Natha, spokesperson of the Moortikar Sangarsh Samiti points out the differences in selling a religious marble idols and other consumer goods, “ The statues of deities are not sold in a time bound manner like utility items. GST asks us to declare stock and pay tax even on unsold idol at the end of the year but the idols may go unsold for years and often this ‘dead stock’ stays with us for decades. And often a statue may take over a year to procure the marble block, transport it, carve and deliver to the customer.” Life-size deities carved in 1930’s by his grandfather still occupy a place in their courtyard.
And it’s a business involving sentiments and massive risks, shares Natha. Owing to their fragile nature, the statues fail to get insurance cover and if during carving some spot appears in the costly marble block or even a tiny crack is sustained during polishing, colouring or even delivery, the customer refuses to take it, because a spotted or cracked idol is considered inauspicious. And the craftsmen have to bear all the costs, that now include a 28% GST.
Only once, in 1986 tax was imposed on the marble deities but was revoked after a protest. This time too, thousands of moortikar’s staged a protest rally and submitted a memorandum. These statues are exported as far as USA, Australia, Europe and most Asian countries.
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