A delegation of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MPs on Wednesday urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to withdraw 18 per cent GST imposed on kendu leaf, which is used for wrapping bidis. The BJD delegation comprising members from both the Houses of the Parliament met Sitharaman in Delhi and submitted a memorandum in this regard.
Kendu (tendu) leaf, a minor forest produce (MFP), is the financial backbone of about 8 lakh kendu leaf pluckers, binders and seasonal workers in Odisha, mostly belonging to the tribal community. They have the right to procure and sell these products as per Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, the MPs said.
Stating that imposition of 18 per cent GST on kendu leaves is adversely affecting trade and livelihoods of people, the MPs urged the Finance Minister to lift the GST on kendu leaves for the greater interest of the state of Odisha.Earlier, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to Sitharaman in November this year for withdrawal of GST on kendu leaves.
In the 48th GST Council meeting held on December 17, Odisha’s Finance Minister Niranjan Pujari had also raised the demand for exemption of GST on kendu leaf.
Pujari had said in the GST Council meeting that the 18 per cent tax on the forest produce is against the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and PESA Act, 1996, as it affects the livelihood of kendu leaf pluckers, over 90 per cent of whom are tribals, besides the binders and seasonal workers.
Odisha is the third largest producer of kendu leaf after Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The annual production of the bidi leaf in Odisha is around 4.5 to 5 lakh quintal, which is about 20 per cent of the country’s annual production.
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