GST Strikes Sad Chord for Musical Instrument Makers of Kolkata
The government has imposed 28% GST on musical instruments, making them costlier. The number of customers, as a result, has dipped significantly.
There are more than 3000 small, big and medium musical instruments manufacturing units in Bengal. (Photo: Sujit Nath/News18)
Kolkata: Almost every Indian musician, from Pundit Ravi Shankar to Amjad Ali Khan, has walked down the narrow lanes of north and central Kolkata, looking for an instrument of their choice.
The small, dank workshops, where artisans toil day and night to handcraft musical instruments for maestros and novices alike, offer delight to any music lover. In shops lined with guitars, violins, sitars, tablas, and what not, one can see workers giving final touch to instruments.
Post goods and services tax, however, these artisans have hit a sad note. The government has imposed 28% GST on musical instruments, making them costlier. The number of customers, as a result, has dipped significantly.
“We have been compelled to hike the price of our products. There is a steep decrease in production and selling of instruments. Customers are not willing to buy instruments at a higher cost. If this continues, we will have to shut shop,” said secretary of West Bengal Musical Instruments Dealers and Manufacturers Association, Ajit Kumar Mondal.
There are more than 3000 small, big and medium musical instruments manufacturing units in Bengal and nearly 5 lakh people are associated with the industry. Now, many of these units are on the verge of closure.
Sujan Bhowmik, another worker at Dhulagarh string instruments unit and expert in making Violin, said, “Earlier, we had 25 workers. Now only 15 are left as 10 of them were asked to leave. The government should consider our plea and we are hopeful that Bengal government will come forward to rescue us from this crisis.”
In its letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the association has sought exemption from GST. Earlier, certain musical instruments were exempted from value added tax. And the remaining instruments were taxed at 14.5%.
Babu Maity, an expert in making Sitar in Dum Dum, said, “Most of the workshop owners have already started downsizing their workforce. I have to look after my family and I am the only bread earner, but I am living in constant fear of losing my job.”
Sujoy Kumar Das, one of the owners of a production unit in North Kolkata, said, “This is a fact that the industry will find it difficult to survive under 28% GST. The only option before us is to reduce our workforce and to compromise with the quality of instruments.”
“Bengal has always been one of the most important cultural hubs in India. Not just us, but there are lakhs of students, teachers, music schools associated (indirectly) with this industry. I would like to request Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to consider out plea,” Mondal said.
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