The Odisha government has urged the Centre to exempt plates and cups made out of sal/siali leaves, sabai grass, ropes and handicraft goods from the purview of the Goods and Service Tax (GST). In a letter to the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Odisha’s finance minister S B Behera said that he had raised the concern of people engaged in the trade at the 19th meeting of the GST Council held via video conferencing recently. “A large number of tribal people are engaged in collecting of sal/siali leaves from the forest. They also stitch plates and cups out of sal/siali leaves and sell in the nearby markets to earn their livelihood. These goods are purchased by the traders and the same are sold inside the state and supplied to other states,” Behera said. “These plates and cups are also consumed by the lower/middle class of the society,” he said.
Behera also said these goods were exempted under Odisha VAT Act. “There were no excise duties on these goods also. Therefore, GST should not been applied on these items,” he said. “In the interest of tribal people engaged in eco-friendly economic activities and earning their livelihood, the plates and cups made up of sal/siali leaves should be exempted under GST in the next meeting of the GST Council,” Behera said in the letter. He said that sal leaves are an integral part of life and culture of tribal population and a major source of livelihood for a large number of tribals.