Sunil Bhai, a resident of Malappuram, sustained a spinal injury in an accident almost a decade ago. His injury necessitated that he use a special variety of wheelchair which costs him ₹27,000. The natural wear and tear of the wheelchair meant that he had to buy a new one three or four years. But his latest wheelchair purchase set him back by ₹32,000, thanks to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 5 to 18% now imposed on assistive devices for the differently abled.
“Earlier, there was no tax on wheelchair and similar equipment. Now, GST has been imposed on them, which has come as a blow to many like me. The base model, used by a large number of people, used to cost around ₹6,000. After GST implementation, it now costs more than ₹9,000. Most of us carry out all our activities, including bathing, while sitting on this wheelchair. So, there is too much wear and tear. The base models will have to be replaced in a year or so, while the costlier ones, like mine, can be used for around four years,” says Mr. Sunil.
Several differently abled persons like Sunil from across the State, under the banner of the ‘Voice of Disabled,’ came together in front of the Secretariat on Monday raising various demands.
Another demand was for an increase in the welfare pension from ₹1,100 per month given to the differently-abled. The lack of ramp facilities in a large number of government institutions even after awareness campaigns was another concern. The collective demanded that all differently-abled persons who were provided temporary jobs through the employment exchange from 2004 to 2010 be made permanent.