"We have forgotten that the rural enterprise covers 60% of our population. From dalits, to OBC, to the farmer, we have simply forgotten them. This GST doesn't even have a definition of handmade. How can you have equal tax in an unequal country like this?," Prasanna told NDTV in Basavanagudi, the south Bengaluru location from where he is holding his fast.
He says that the new taxation has led to "destruction" of the industry. Prasanna plans to increase awareness among consumers about the effects of GST on the industry. "There is not just a drop in sales, it has collapsed. The KHDC has had a 25% drop in sales - that means destruction of that industry. We are not only talking to the government, but are also talking to the people, to the city consumer. It is the city consumer who is going to finally decide the matter," he said.
The concern was also shared by customers, who felt that sale of homemade products should be encouraged by the government. "Mill made products can be covered under GST, but handmade products should be encouraged. It doesn't seem right to put GST on them," said Vikram Bhat, a customer shopping with his family in Desi, a shop that only sells goods handmade made by artisans.
Chief Minister SIddaramaiah referred to Prasanna's protest and urged Finance Minister Arn Jaitley to "take the issue on a priority basis in the next GST Council and decide favourably benefiting a large segment of rural artisans". He said the representation from the Gram Seva Sangh "requires serious and urgent consideration and a positive resolution". "This would not only benefit a large segment of our rural population but would also give a boost to rural employment and sustainability," he said.
Prasanna's protest has also received support from celebrities. On Wednesday, actor Prakash Raj visited Prasanna at the fast venue in a show of solidarity. "It is unfair. We need social justice. People who work on, who make a living on, who express themselves, whose identity is handmade goods are the oppressed," the actor told NDTV.
Santosh Koulagi has been working with Khadi handloom weavers in the temple town of Melukote in Karnataka for over three decades. He was also at the hunger strike venue and said, "Already, handloom products are not in a position to compete with industrially produced products. Even the small handloom products - the handloom spare parts have now been taxed. For example, the simple shuttle used by a handloom weaver now has 18% tax."