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GST a stumbling block for Odisha’s fisherwomen

15-Mar-2019
GST a stumbling block for Odisha’s fisherwomen

Samudram, a community-based federation of women’s self-help groups of marine fisherwomen living on Odisha’s coast, has claimed that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) was hurting its business prospects.

Seventy-nine self-help groups of Ganjam, Puri and Jagatsinghpur districts are attached to Samudram, which is involved in the production and trading of dry fish and other processed fish products.

Samudram managing director B. Chitamma said they had been processing about 3,000 tonnes of fish and prawn products every month before the implementation of GST. “Because of bureaucratic hassles related to GST our scope of trading has gone down and we have reduced our production to about 500 kg per month,” she said, adding that the members are now compelled to sell their produce at local markets in smaller amounts.

Before the GST era, less educated or illiterate women of Samudram used to sell fish and prawn products across Odisha. They also sent large quantities of their produce to Maharashtra, Delhi, Haryana, Tamil Nadu and the Northeastern States. Without GST registration, they are now unable to send their produce outside the State or market it in large amounts within Odisha.

For GST registration and maintenance of its records and ledgers, Samudram has to employ extra staff that needs more investment. For waybills to send produce outside, it has to pay GST in advance and wait for some months to get the return.

‘Lack of capital’

“Most members of Samudram are illiterate marine fisherwomen who are ignorant of the intricacies of accountancy and taxation. They also do not have much capital in hand to pay up advance GST,” said Mangaraj Panda, adviser of Samudram.

The initial 24% GST on dry fish — a great blow to Samudram — was gradually reduced to 5%. “However, we, unlike corporate producers of fish products, are poor women and not in a position to bear even 5% GST. Most of the time, our profit margin is just 8%,” said Samudram vice-president P. Kamudu.

The self-help groups feel that the government should exempt GST on their produce as their production and trading was aimed at earning a living, rather than doing any corporate business. Unless they get a tax exemption, it will be hard for them to enter and compete in mainstream markets, said Ms. Chitamma.



Source :- Thehindu.com

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