BJD MPs Call On Nirmala Sitharaman, Seek Withdrawal Of 18% GST On Kendu Leaf

New Delhi: 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.

The delegation comprising members from both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha met the Union Minister and submitted a memorandum in this regard in Delhi.

“As the public representative of the tribal community of Odisha, we have requested to exempt Kendu Yadav from GST. Withdrawal of GST will improve the lives and livelihood of 8 lakh pluckers and workers in Odisha and achieve the objective of empowering tribals through the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the PESA Act, 1996,’ they said.

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.

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 pointed out that the 18% tax on kendu leaves is in violation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006 and the PESA Act, 1996. This is affecting the livelihood of people who collect and sell kendu leaves. More than 90% of them are tribals, besides the binders and seasonal workers.

Earlier, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had written to Sitharaman in November this year for withdrawal of GST on kendu leaves.

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.

Sunil Kumar Dhangadamajhi

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