SAMBALPUR: Hundreds of kendu leaf pluckers, binders and workers on Tuesday staged a demonstration near the office of Revenue Divisional Commissioner (RDC), North demanding the abolition of GST on kendu leaves.
The agitators under the aegis of the Odisha Kendu Patra Karmachari Sangh (OKKS) also submitted a memorandum addressed to Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman over their demand to the RDC.
President of OKKS Bijaya Mohanty said around 92 per cent of kendu leaf pluckers are tribals and from deprived sections of the society. The imposition of GST has impacted the income of pluckers who are dependent on kendu leaves for their livelihood and social security.
“A GST of 18 per cent is imposed on kendu leaves which is against the Forest Rights Act-2006 and PESA Act-1996. Besides, the government has imposed a GST of 28 per cent on bidi which is a finished product made of kendu leaf. This double taxation has hit the profits of kendu leaf organisation and affected the livelihood of around 12 lakh workers. While the profits have reduced drastically, they are now deprived of many social security benefits too, Mohanty claimed.
In the memorandum, OKKS stated that in its election manifesto in 2019, the ruling BJP at the Centre had promised to abolish GST from kendu leaf and return the tax amount collected earlier. However, the promise is yet to be fulfilled. The memorandum was signed by 18,294 kendu leaf workers.
The OKKS also submitted a separate memorandum to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik over various demands. Additional Secretary to RDC Girish Chandra Singh received the two memorandums and assured the agitators to place their demands at appropriate forums.