Hyderabad: Finance Minister T Harish Rao on Friday requested Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman to remove the 28 per cent GST on beedi industry. Harish Rao, who met with Sitaraman on the sidelines of the GST Council meeting in Goa, explained the challenges faced by women, the predominant workforce in the State’s beedi industry, and the steps taken by the Telangana government for their welfare.
Harish Rao informed Sitaraman that lakhs of women depend on beedi making in the 1,000 beedi manufacturing units. The workforce comprises five lakh of whom 90 per cent were women who face challenges to their health as well as financial difficulties. Though they are aware that rolling of beedis was not good for their health, they do so to earn a livelihood, Harish Rao said.
The State Government, in a bid to help them, has instituted the monthly Rs 2016 Aasara pension but the beedi industry was impacted severely with the introduction of GST on beedis and beedi leaves. At present, the GST rates were 28 per cent on beedis and 18 per cent on beedi leaves and these high rates of taxation can deal a severe blow to the industry. Since this involves lives of lakhs of women, the Centre should withdraw GST on the industry, Harish Rao requested Sitaraman.
He urged Sitaraman to ensure that the Centre introduces programmes with financial incentives that will ensure that the women can earn a livelihood. The Union Minister, responding positively to the request, asked Harish Rao to send her comprehensive proposals for ensuring livelihoods for the women in the beedi industry. She also asked Harish Rao that if proposals can be prepared for their rehabilitation in alternate livelihood, then she would do her best to introduce a policy that would help women working in the industry across the country.
Harish Rao was accompanied by Telangana State’s Special Chief Secretary (Revenue) Somesh Kumar, Principal Secretary (Finance) K Ramakrishna Rao and other officials at the meeting.