In a major decision that would help save one of Punjabs oldest traditions, the state government has decided to abolish Value Added Tax (VAT) on the jutti, which has been a symbol of Punjabi attire. A notification in this regard is expected after a formal approval of the Punjab cabinet, though sources confirmed the chief minister has given his nod. Earlier, the tax on the jutti was 4 per cent.
Sources confirmed that the chief minister in a recent meeting, with the senior excise and taxation officers, on abolishing of VAT on hand stitched jutti had taken the decision. Since the art is part of our traditional, efforts need to be made to save it from getting extinct. Only a few hundred families are involved in the art of making juttis in the state. And due to the taxes, they too are leaving this profession, said sources.
The decision came as a big relief for the Jeengar Rajasthani households who have spent generations making horse and camel harness, saddles, reins and stirrups before Partition and moved to make juttis later on.
Approximately 400 exclusively Rajasthani households in Patiala and some parts of Malout who are responsible for the creation of jutti and are in doubts whether to carry with the profession since they are no longer able to eke out a living from the only profession they know.
We are solely dependent on making juttis. Our children being trained into the art very early and mostly acquiring only elementary education, they know nothing else and are left with no option but to carry on with the family vocation, said Ram Dhani. Four generation of his family are involved in this profession. With no tax our income would surely improve, he added.
But the trade, which was their bread and butter for decades, seems to have itself been caught in a rut. There has been a decrease in demand due to the changing fashions as well as more comfortable footwear besides preference for simplicity which means more lower end juttis are produced which give little return to workers.
The artisans are the losers even though the jutti may give a handsome profit to the shopkeepers. Numerous artisans in Shahi Samadhan, Top Khana Mor, Sunami Gate, Churan Wali Gali, Jeejayan Wali Gali, Shastran Wali Gali and Toba Baba Dhiana where they are mainly settled as well as shopkeepers in the main jutti bazaar in the old city, it was revealed that the artisans are barely eking out a living.
We came from Pakistan with my father and he started with sewing juttis, and we are following his tracks as we are trained in it, Pawan Kumar Dabi told this correspondent.
With abolition of VAT, we feel there could be more sales and the increased profit margin could go to the artisans who are the real workers, claimed Ramandeep Singh, who is involved in the export of the jutti to European countries.
Pawan Kumar Dabi, his wife Beena Dabi and two children are engaged in making juttis for nearly the whole day. While the menfolk do the cutting and stitching, the women do the embroidery work.
Each person is barely able to do work earning him Rs 75 to Rs 100 per day. With such a low income, we are barely able to make ends meet, he said.
However, the numerous jutti makers claim that despite all the hardships, Punjabi jutti is still popular with the NRIs and abroad. The time near Christmas is good for us as we are able to fetch good amount in less time as the NRIs and the foreigners usually do not bargain and order dozens of pairs, they said.
Punjab Director Enforcement KVS Sidhu confirmed to The Indian Express that the Punjab CM himself was keen to give some respite to this old and famous artwork of Punjab. Moreover there was little revenue to the state on this and the abolition of VAT would save this traditional folk art of Punjab, he said.