Photos: GST on marble chisels profits for Rajasthan’s idol makers

With the tax slab on marble products going up from the earlier 5% to the post-GST 28% rate, marble sculptors engaged in the creation of idols from the much sought after stone in Rajasthan are up in arms over the economic implications of this move.

Updated On Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST 7 Photos
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For two weeks now, the historic Moortikars or idol craftsmen of Jaipur whose profession is as old as the city itself haven’t opened their shops. While discarded statues gaze over the deserted lanes of Moorti bazaar, thousands of idols of gods and goddesses belonging to Hindu, Jain and also Buddhist faiths, carved on order by customers for various temples or homes are lying locked and shuttered. The reason – for the first time ever, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in effect from July 01, 2017 has hiked the tax bracket on these marble idols manifold. (Himanshu Vyas / HT Photo)

For two weeks now, the historic Moortikars or idol craftsmen of Jaipur whose profession is as old as the city itself haven’t opened their shops. While discarded statues gaze over the deserted lanes of Moorti bazaar, thousands of idols of gods and goddesses belonging to Hindu, Jain and also Buddhist faiths, carved on order by customers for various temples or homes are lying locked and shuttered. The reason – for the first time ever, the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in effect from July 01, 2017 has hiked the tax bracket on these marble idols manifold. (Himanshu Vyas / HT Photo)

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Artisan chisels away at an idol in his workshop shop, in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The 28% GST on these delicate forms of faith has suddenly made the art, which has been passed down generations since centuries, economically inviable. Owing to their fragile nature, the statues fail to get insurance cover and if during carving a blemish appears in the costly stone block or even a tiny crack is sustained during polishing, colouring or even delivery, the customer refuses to take it, because a marred idol is considered inauspicious leaving the craftsmen to bear all the costs, that now include a 28% GST.

Artisan chisels away at an idol in his workshop shop, in Jaipur, Rajasthan. The 28% GST on these delicate forms of faith has suddenly made the art, which has been passed down generations since centuries, economically inviable. Owing to their fragile nature, the statues fail to get insurance cover and if during carving a blemish appears in the costly stone block or even a tiny crack is sustained during polishing, colouring or even delivery, the customer refuses to take it, because a marred idol is considered inauspicious leaving the craftsmen to bear all the costs, that now include a 28% GST.

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Satya Prakash Natha, spokesperson of the Moortikar Sangarsh Samiti points out the differences in selling religious marble idols and other consumer goods, ‘The statues of deities are not sold in a time bound manner like utility items. GST asks us to declare stock and pay tax even on unsold idols at the end of the year but the idols may go unsold for years and often this ‘dead stock’ stays with us for decades. And often a statue may take over a year to procure the marble block, transport it, carve and deliver to the customer’. Life-size deities carved in 1930’s by his grandfather still occupy a place in their courtyard.

Satya Prakash Natha, spokesperson of the Moortikar Sangarsh Samiti points out the differences in selling religious marble idols and other consumer goods, ‘The statues of deities are not sold in a time bound manner like utility items. GST asks us to declare stock and pay tax even on unsold idols at the end of the year but the idols may go unsold for years and often this ‘dead stock’ stays with us for decades. And often a statue may take over a year to procure the marble block, transport it, carve and deliver to the customer’. Life-size deities carved in 1930’s by his grandfather still occupy a place in their courtyard.

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Only once, in 1986 tax was imposed on the marble deities but was revoked after a protest. This time too, thousands of moortikar’s staged a protest rally and submitted a memorandum to CM Vasundhara Raje in Jaipur. These statues are exported as far as USA, Australia, Europe and to most Asian countries.

Only once, in 1986 tax was imposed on the marble deities but was revoked after a protest. This time too, thousands of moortikar’s staged a protest rally and submitted a memorandum to CM Vasundhara Raje in Jaipur. These statues are exported as far as USA, Australia, Europe and to most Asian countries.

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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However, the craftsmen demanding ‘Gods and Goddesses’ to be tax-free, are ready to pay tax on other idols. Around 3000-4000 shops are in the business of selling these religious idols along with those of saints, martyrs, historical and political figures. The number of craftsmen, many of whom are family members and related persons affected by the GST stands at around 50,000.

However, the craftsmen demanding ‘Gods and Goddesses’ to be tax-free, are ready to pay tax on other idols. Around 3000-4000 shops are in the business of selling these religious idols along with those of saints, martyrs, historical and political figures. The number of craftsmen, many of whom are family members and related persons affected by the GST stands at around 50,000.

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Suggesting a way out, veteran artist Satyanarayan Natha demands the marble mines to be nationalized and government supplies marble to craftsmen. He says that sculpting is a time consuming art and often the artist is busy carving for months without break and if he is required to files 37 IT returns in a year, when will he work!

Suggesting a way out, veteran artist Satyanarayan Natha demands the marble mines to be nationalized and government supplies marble to craftsmen. He says that sculpting is a time consuming art and often the artist is busy carving for months without break and if he is required to files 37 IT returns in a year, when will he work!

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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Unsold idols stored in the godown of a sculptor at Khazane Walon Ka Rasta, in Jaipur. As a fallout, he warns that already disinterested youngsters will completely abandon the rare art and factory-cast idols produced in China which not only have crude looks, but lack the devout touch of a traditional sculptor will deluge the Indian market.

Unsold idols stored in the godown of a sculptor at Khazane Walon Ka Rasta, in Jaipur. As a fallout, he warns that already disinterested youngsters will completely abandon the rare art and factory-cast idols produced in China which not only have crude looks, but lack the devout touch of a traditional sculptor will deluge the Indian market.

Updated on Jul 18, 2017 08:34 AM IST
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