Theatre personality and activist Prasanna has been in the forefront of the agitation seeking to bring handmade products under the 0% slab in the Goods and Services Tax regime that came into force on July 1, 2017. As part of the agitation, Mr. Prasanna produced
Thayavva
, a musical, to highlight the need to protect handmade products in the country. A 14-member committee, comprising social activists, also listed over 200 handmade products that could be brought under 0% GST slab.

When the GST Council announced 0% tax on 29 handmade items in January this year, social activists, including Prasanna, had welcomed it. However, with no further announcements, the Gram Seva Sangha of which he is a part, is relaunching the movement for 0% slab for handmade products. It has renewed the protest as “#HeyRam!” and has planned a sit-in dharna in front of the Town Hall in Bengaluru on Sunday.

Excerpts from an interview:

You are starting the protest seeking GST relief for handmade products again. Why?

A decision was announced to bring 29 handmade products under 0% tax regime, but nothing has happened since then. If they had no intention of carrying it through, it should not have been announced. In a way, they have cheated the people.

How different will this protest be?

We have expanded the scope of the programme and made it #HeyRam! campaign against all repressions of rural income.

What is Ram’s relevance in this movement?

Ram is a moral icon. During the freedom movement and peasant struggle, the name of Ram was invoked to speak for the masses. Gandhiji defined Ram Rajya as Gram Swarajya — a model of pro-people administration. Ram was defined as someone who belongs to the poor and the hard working. However, in the 80s, Ram was usurped by Brahminical forces for a political cause. It will be Hey Ram vs Jai Ram from now on.

How are these two expressions different and what do they represent?

Hey Ram was the phrase murmured by Gandhiji when he confronted bullets. Jai Ram is the assertion of violent masses, while Hey Ram is introspective and non-violent. By talking of Hey Ram, we want to take all Indian people into this introspective movement, which builds a larger ethical base.

Will there be other events as part of the protest?

On July 27, a poetry programme in the name of Hey Ram has been organised. We will defy GST by not collecting tax on the ticket.

Ram was defined as someone who belongs to the poor and the hard working. However, in the 1980s, Ram was usurped by Brahminical forces for a political cause. It will be Hey Ram vs Jai Ram from now on.

Prasanna

Theatre personality and activist

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