GUWAHATI, June 30 - Amid the preparations to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) from midnight today, the disability sector�s demand for exempting essentials like Braille items, orthopaedic appliances, special motor vehicles etc., from GST, has gone unheard.
Despite a strong appeal from the entire disability sector to roll back GST and bring it to zero per cent on goods used by persons with disabilities, a positive response did not come from the government, which has disappointed a major section of people who find it going against the spirit of �accessible India campaign� initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The State Government Disabled Employees Parishad has also asked the State and Union governments to do the needful to announce roll back of the tax from essential items used by persons with disabilities.
Parishad advisor Jagadish Sarma stated that since such items do not fall in the category of luxury goods and also keeping in mind the day-to-day struggle of persons with disabilities (PWDs), such aids and appliances must be made tax-free for the greater interest of the PWDs.
The Parishad, a wing of the Sadou Asom Karmachari Parishad (SAKP), also said that since such employees already avail an exemption from VAT, arrangements must be made under the GST regime as well.
Shishu Sarothi, a well-known organisation working in the disability sector in Assam, also said imposing tax on such items would hamper accessibility, inclusion and mobility and would be discriminatory towards PWDs.
In solidarity with the disability rights groups, Shishu Sarothi also held a small protest this afternoon to demand of the government to roll back GST on disability goods.
Chapter Eight of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016 � Duties and Responsibilities of Appropriate Governments, clearly states, �The appropriate government shall develop schemes and programmes to promote the personal mobility of persons with disabilities at affordable cost to provide for incentives and concessions, retrofitting of vehicles and personal mobility assistance.�
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which India has signed and ratified, calls on nations to promote development and adoption of assistive technologies and devices for persons with disabilities, again �giving priority to technologies at an affordable cost�, stated the NGO.
�Despite the initial 18 per cent tax imposed on some of the items being brought down to five per cent after the appeal, it still does not suffice. If the government does not invest on persons with disabilities, how can they become contributing citizens, apply for jobs, seek education and become equal with others!� argued executive director of Shishu Sarothi Arman Ali.