Agra: Facing a serious threat to survival, hundreds of shoe factory owners and thousands of workers have hit the streets protesting a steep hike in the GST rate.
For the past week, they have been agitating and meeting politicians to press for rollback. So far their efforts have not yielded any tangible benefits.
The GST rate has been increased from five to 12 per cent, effective from January 1.
The factory owners are demanding a rollback because the increase could finish off the small and cottage industry producing leather shoes in Agra which produces over 60 per cent of the total output.
The proposed hike in GST on shoes costing up to ₹1000, will sound the death knell of the industry, a delegation that met senior officials and ministers said. They said four lakh workers of the shoe industry were facing a bleak future and if the industry is hit, they will be on roads without work.
Shoe manufacturers met the former governor of Uttarakhand Baby Rani Maurya who promised to take their case to the central leaders. The Aam Admi Party workers joined the protest and submitted a memorandum to the district administration demanding rollback of the hike.
In a memorandum to the ADM city, the Agra Shoe Factors’ Federation, said the industry was already in the dumps due to the pandemic lockdown, now the GST hike had delivered a severe blow to small traders and shoemakers. The Joota Dastkar Federation also presented a memorandum addressed to the prime minister, warning that the shoe workers would lose jobs and start migrating if the hike was not taken back.
The Agra shoe industry is as old as the Mughals in India, engaging around four lakh workers, including packers, transporters, suppliers. Under the state government’s one district one product of shoe manufacturing has been promoted from Agra. Before the GST hike shoes costing below ₹500 were tax-free and those above ₹1000 were taxed at five per cent. Shoe manufacturers claim that because the leather shoes from Agra are affordable, they take care of almost 65 per cent of the market in India.