July 1: The GST is just a few hours away. Slogans such as “One Nation – One Tax” raised by the government resound in our ears. But did you know that this tax punished a very sensitive section of our people : the differently-abled?
There are 70 million ‘physically challenged’ persons in India. That is almost as big as the population of a country, but this government did not think them important enough to keep in mind while formulating the GST.
Tax increase on aids for ‘differently-abled’
Goods and Services Tax is making things even worse. When GST kicks in tonight ‘disabled friendly goods’ will see a significant increase in price. Almost all aids and appliances that disabled people use such as wheelchair, Braille typewriter or hearing aids will become at least 5% more expensive. Orthopaedic appliances such as crutches and surgical belts will become 12% more expensive.
The Differently-abled pay a price for mobility
It is already very difficult for the differently-abled to use public transport in India. None of the public transport are made with the ‘physically challenged’ in the mind. So much so that it’s hard to even find a wheel chair in any of our bus stations or railway stations.
The physically challenged are forced to use their own bikes or cars for transport. GST, which should have actually made things easier for their mobility, has in fact made things much worse.
Even smaller cars are treated as a luxury item and taxed heavily – a whopping 18%. This will surely bring down the affordability of cars as personal transportation for this sensitive section of our population. For the differently-abled, a car is not a luxury, it is very much a necessity.
The Real Shocker: Luxury goods have meager tax
The real shocker however,and one that reveals the insensitivity of this government is that, while goods used by the differently-abled for improving the quality of their lives are charged such high percentages of tax, real luxury items such as precious stones are taxed at only 0.25%.
In this context it is also pertinent to note that though it has been 6 months since India passed the Disability Law, the Ministry of Finance and the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities is yet to set up a committee to work for the welfare of the ‘differently-abled’.
The ‘differently abled’ are also the nation’s assets
As mentioned previously, there are 70 million disabled people in India. The government has all the capabilities to turn them into a resource. It is the responsibility of the government to invest in their welfare.
They can contribute to economic growth and the nation’s progress. Hopefully, sooner than later, the government will implement the ‘disability act’ and strive to work for the betterment of this important part of our society.