GUWAHATI: Artistes in Assam shall now have to pay a price, allegedly for their participation in the ongoing agitation against the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA).
It has been made mandatory for them to pay the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from their earnings at Bihu cultural events.
The GST authority has issued a direction to Bihu committees to make all transactions, including payments to artistes, through cheques. They will have to pay 18 per cent GST.
The over two-month-long cultural programmes are organised during the celebration of Rongali Bihu which begins mid-April. Singers and musicians get paid for their performance.
The same GST rule was put in place even in the past but making such payments mandatory, is unprecedented and have left Assamese artistes livid.
“As per the directive, singers like me, who perform at Bihu functions, will be paid through cheques. When we will deposit the cheques in the banks, a big amount will be deducted as GST. We perform as a team that has musicians, sound engineers, drivers, helpers etc. So, some 20-25 families earn a livelihood from my programmes. How will they run their families?” asked popular singer Bipin Chawdang.
“I feel the government is trying to take revenge against the artistes for staging protests against CAA,” he said.
The Bihu committees insisted that as Bihu is a “national festival” of Assam and the Assamese, Bihu stages should be exempted from the GST rule purview.
“Bihu is our national festival and as such, we want that the Bihu stages are exempted from GST. Also, artistes of folk music should be exempted. We have nothing to say if GST is collected from professional artistes when they perform in big events that are sponsored and organised in stadiums and elsewhere,” said Kailas Sarma, advisor to Guwahati Bihu Sanmilani.
The artistes of the state, including film personalities, have been on the streets for the past month to put up a united fight along with All Assam Students’ Union, Asom Jatiatabadi Yuva Chhatra Parishad and people against CAA.
Ostensibly to quell the protests, the state government had last month announced a scheme whereby a one-time grant of Rs 50,000 each will be given to 2,000 artistes and technicians of the state. However, they spurned the offer.