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Disabling the differently abled

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mark blake

In July, the goods and services tax (GST) was rolled out to a mixed reception. Its objective is to prevent cascading of taxes and avoid built-in taxes — for example, excise duty at the factory gate, duty on equipment used by telecom companies, etc — thereby lowering retail prices and increasing tax revenue by more voluntary compliance.

If it proves effective, there is an anticipated increase in GDP by 2%. But the implementation of GST has not gone down well with everyone as the initial impact on the market has been an increase in the prices of goods and services. It is also because taxes have become more visible, as compared to earlier when they were hidden and built into the price itself.

What was visible earlier was a value-added tax (VAT) imposed by states at the retail level or the service tax imposed by the Centre. The new 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% tax based on categories divided into essentials, necessities and luxuries has also left the public confused.

But if anyone has been particularly hurt by GST, the differently-abled are facing a double blow. With 5% GST being imposed on disability equipment, the message sent out is not one of inclusion. Unfortunately, this notion of economic ‘demands and costs’ associated with disability is rooted in the misconceived perception that the disabled cannot contribute economically and socially.

To nurture such ideas is in conflict not only with reality but also with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), the Right to Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016, and all other steps taken to spread awareness and bring about change in the way society views the differently abled.

To impose GST on wheelchairs and Braille paper is literally taxing the disabled person for trying to overcome his or her disability, in this case, the inability to walk and read. This is not justifiable and nullifies all the provisions, rules and guidelines envisioned within the RPWD Act 2016 that was cleared by the government in December 2016.

 

Thanks!

 

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