New Delhi: Disabled people on Friday organised a candle light vigil against the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on their helping aids and appliances and demanded subsidies, concessions and incentives.
The protest, organised by the Disability Rights Group (DRG) along with other organisations – National Centre for Promotion of Employment for Disabled People (NCPEDP), National Disability Network (NDN), Disabled Peoples' International (DPI), saw participation of around 50 people from the community.
"We are demanding a vast disability goods market for India where aids and appliances for all types of people with disabilities are both, available and affordable. That's our midnight hour dream," DRG Convenor Javed Abidi told IANS.
"It was before 2006 that simple and much necessary aids and appliances meant for the use of people with disabilities were taxed but after a big battle with the government, these taxes were brought down to zero percent," he said.
"Now that the new GST regime is kicking in, a lot of items are at 12 percent, some at 18 percent, and quite a few at 5 percent of GST, he added.
"Which decent society would tax crutches, wheelchairs, Braille typewriters and hearing aids?" he questioned.
Abidi emphasised that there is a deep connect between poverty and disability and hence their demand for their zero tax regime is "very important".
"We are here protesting not just for the people living in big cities but also the ones from very small villages who afford the basic amenities with great difficulty," he said.
He questioned why the items such as 'kajal' (kohl) are being taxed at zero percent and rough precious and semi-precious stones are being taxed at a mere 0.25 percent. "It's completely insane," he said.
"It is not clear why the GST Council is taxing disabled citizens of India. This decision of the Council blatantly violates the provisions of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, he added.
He explained that chapter 8 of the law categorically talks about concessions, subsidies, incentives.
"The government took a lot of credit for passing the new law of RPWD that talks about the affordability of aids and appliances but the opposite is happening, Abidi said.
"Instead of making them affordable, you are rather imposing a regime that will further make it out of the reach of people, he added.
DRG has written letters to finance minister Arun Jaitley, social justice minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and also Prime Minister Narendra Modi regarding the same.
"There hasn't been any response as of now but we won't give up," he said.
He also mentioned that Gehlot has written to the finance minister in support of our demands.
"Hence, we are hopeful that the government will respond to our needs and demands," he concluded.
Updated Date: Jul 01, 2017 11:27 AM