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GST rates on appliances angers the disabled in India

Jul 04, 2017

The disabled community came out in protest against GST which has allegedly caused undue increase in prices related to appliances used by them.

Delhi: The disabled community in India is up in arms against the newly unveiled Goods and Services Tax (GST) that will lead to exorbitant rise in the prices of aids and appliances for the specially-abled.

Demanding a roll back of GST rates the community organised a candle light vigil in New Delhi at Jantar Mantar.

The beginning of July in India ushered into a very sad and dark period, similar to what it was in the pre-2006 times, where simple and much necessary aids and appliances meant for the use of people with disabilities are taxed by the government.

A Delhi based nonprofit, National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPDEP), feels that is very unjust of the government to tax such items that are indispensable to the well being of the disabled people.

“Which decent society would tax crutches, wheelchairs, braille typewriters, and hearing aids?,” says Javed Abidi of NCPDEP.

According to NCPDEP almost all appliances that disabled people use such as a wheelchair, or a braille typewriter or a hearing aid will become at least 5% more expensive. “If the confusion over Chapter 90:9 in the GST bill is not resolved between now and then, then some orthopaedic appliances such as crutches and surgical belts will get 12% more expensive,” says the nonprofit.

Abidi feels that this decision of the GSTCouncil blatantly violates the provisions of the newly passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act, 2016. “It is not clear why the council is taxing disabled citizens of India. While items such as kajal are being taxed at 0% and rough precious and semi-precious stones are being taxed at a mere 0.25%, most disability goods are being charged at 5% — the same as kites (patang) and agarbattis and cashew nuts,” he laments.

Abidi questioned as to how wheelchairs and hearing aids could be equal to kites and aggarbattis. “Pooja items, bindisare again at 0% tax so why not wheelchairs, hearing aids and other necessary aids and appliances? Disabled people in villages and small towns cannot afford a wheelchair of Rs. 2000-3000 and then if the tax will also add on, where will they go?,” he said.

Chapter 8 – Duties and Responsibilities of Appropriate Governments of the RPWD Act clearly states: “The appropriate government shall develop schemes programmes to promote the personal mobility of persons with disabilities at affordable cost to provide for, — (a) incentives and concessions; (b) retrofitting of vehicles; and (c) personal mobility assistance.”

Javed said that it was no longer about Zero Tax. “The disabled are invoking both, UNCRPD (Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities), and the newly passed Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016. They are forcefully demanding subsidies, concessions and incentives,” he said.

India must invest in its disabled population — there are 70 million of them. If the disabled are able to step out of their homes, go to schools and colleges, get jobs on merit and go to their workplaces and perform, they will obviously contribute to the nation’s growth and its economic progress.

“Government must find the mind space and time space; it has to be ensured that the disability aids and appliances should be available and affordable,” said Abidi.

The disabled community has been urging for a vast disability goods market for India where aids and appliances for all types of people with disabilities are both, available and affordable.

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