By Kelsang Rinchen,
Dharamsala/Ludhiana, April 4 – As announced in Tibet Times and Chitsog Melong, the representatives of the various Tibetan sweater sellers’ communities in India have gathered for a meeting in Ludhiana, the north Indian town famous for hosiery goods, after the hike in sales tax last year.
The sweater sellers have earlier approached the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and Department of Home for support and guidance. A modest function in Ludhiana was attended by a representative each from the Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and Department of Home. The members of the Tibetan sweater sellers’ community welcomed Mr. Ogyen Tenzin, an Utsang deputy, and Mr. Ngawang Chodak, additional secretary, Department of Home.
The steep hike in sales tax last year had hampered the profit margin of the sweater sellers who acquire loans from banks to invest in their seasonal business. Sweater selling business has been the main source of income for the majority of the exile Tibetan population.
The Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies, however, has reportedly told the sweater sellers that it would prefer not to pose any interference in this meeting. The meeting is held to decide if an office representing all the sweater selling communities should be set up in Ludhiana to help the Tibetan sweater sellers in problems of this nature.
The meeting will continue today without the presence of the two representatives of the exile Tibetan government, it is learned.
Talking to phayul on phone, a Tibetan, who refused to be named, said that the Tibetan government’s efforts to help improve the living standards of the Tibetans in the settlements through various economic policies and plans will not bear any fruit if it does not play a role now when it is most needed.
However, it is clear that the Tibetan government could not have effected the hike in tax by the Indian government even if it had appealed, as the law is uniform for all.
The Tibetan retailers appreciate and remember their government’s help in providing them with letters from Indian External Affairs Ministry that has helped them pass through toll tax booths with nominal charges.
The Indian Lalas in Ludhiana and the Tibetan refugees have built up a good rapport between them that the latter can avail huge amount of orders on credit from the former.
“We have no capital of our own, most of it come as loans, the rest are on credits from the Lalas and it is very embarrassing for us when the Lalas would visit us in our settlements around Losar to collect their money”, he added.
“If we pay less tax, we will earn more and we will be free from debts, but we are grateful that Assembly of Tibetan People’s Deputies and Department of Home have paid heed to our request by coming here”, he continued.
While there seems to be a strong expectation in the minds of these Tibetan petty tradesmen of their government, Dharamsala’s capacity to officially secure a relaxation of tax for the Tibetans is meagre since it is just another institution of Tibetan people in the eyes of the Indian government.
Kelsang Rinchen can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.