New Delhi, Dec 3 (UNI) Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi today, in a letter to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, said the state government's proposal to impose VAT on moulded plastic footwear and hand-made shoes would sound the ''deathknell'' of the shoe industry in Agra.
In his letter, Mr Gandhi, who represents Amethi constituency in the Lok Sabha, said the proposal, if implemented, would take Agra's shoe industry ''to the brink of destruction.'' The Uttar Pradesh government had recently sent a proposal to the Centre to impose four per cent VAT on the moulded plastic footwear and 12.5 per cent on hand-made shoes.
''As you are aware there are around three lakh workers associated with this traditional cottage industry and most of them belong to the Scheduled Tribe category...Most of these craftsmen are making shoes by using artificial leather or plastic, which are priced at Rs 100-400 a pair,'' he pointed out in his letter.
He said if the state government went ahead with its proposals, it would spell disaster for Agra's shoe industry because there would be a difference of 8.5 per cent in the prices of shoe products in Agra and other states.
Mr Gandhi pointed out that in the neighbouring states, only a four per cent tax had been imposed on shoes made from artificial leather and plastic. Even the state governments of Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan had exempted shoes priced below Rs 300 from the ambit of taxation.
He, however, complimented the state government for its decision to exempt Banaras' handwoven sarees and Lucknow's 'chikan' products from the tax.
''Keeping these factors in view, I request you to put non-leather moulded (machine-made) shoes in the 12.5 per cent tax slab and non-leather shoes (hand-made) in the four per cent tax category,'' he said.
The Congress leader also came out with two alternative suggestions. All non-leather shoes whose retail value are up to Rs 400 should be exempted from VAT. Alternatively, all hand-made shoes should be exempted from VAT as in the case of hand-made sarees in Banaras and 'chikan' products in Lucknow.
The Agra Shoe Factories Federation had been protesting against the proposal for the last two weeks, but it had not received any reply from the state government, Mr Gandhi added.
''If their demands are not considered, it would not only sound the deathknell of Agra's shoe industry but also force the Dalit section to face its brunt,'' he said, hoping Ms Mayawati would ''take an appropriate decision'' on the issue.