Bangalore’s Jagriti Theatre has launched an online petition to protest against the 18% GST that's being levied on the performing arts.


The problem with this tax GST is that it will further discourage people from participating in forms of art, expression, and entertainment. As it is, performing arts don’t receive the same recognition or popularity that forms of entertainment like the movie business enjoy.



We spoke to Jagdish Raja, Director of Development at Jagriti Theatre, about why he started the petition.


“We run a space for performing arts and we’re personally involved with a lot of dancers, musicians, singers, and actors, of course. And we know the kind of discipline they have to put into their individual art forms,” he said.


“A Bharatanatyam dancer will train for 4 or 5 years before their guru will allow them to go and do an Arangetram. And after that they may or may not become ticketed performances. But the moment they become ticketed performances, Delhi is saying you have to pay 18% tax on each ticket.”



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Raja broke down what the GST implies.


On how it's unfair to the artists:


“All of these classical artists go into very, very intense training before their guru gives them the right to perform. And having done that, they get the enjoyment of performing before the public or being asked by a company to come and perform at their event. But then, you wanna come in and say, ‘no, I want 18%.’ It’s unthinkable!”


On what the government will make through the tax:


“The performing arts needs support from the community. Let them be. Anyway, the government will make only a few lakhs from this, as opposed to several crores from other sectors.”


“The tax won’t affect the audience who come to watch the shows but the person (artist) who has to bear the tax, why do they have to be penalised?”


He concluded by telling us about something he recently read.


When Winston Churchill was asked why some of the money spent on arts couldn’t be transferred to the war, he said:


“What are you talking about? What are we fighting this war for?”


It's important to note that the tax will also affect schools of music and dance, which are instrumental in teaching young students art and creativity.


You can support the petition filed by Jagriti Theatre here.


We also spoke to Shankar Ram Chugani, a standup comedian, about the 28% GST on standup comedy tickets.


“It’s terrible. The problem is that right now standup in India is divided into two sections. One are the bunch of comics who have already got their audience through YouTube and they have agencies who handle shows for them.”


“And second you have comics who work in the open mic circuit and do whatever shows they can in every city. These comics don’t make a living out of it. They manage to survive and sustain themselves somehow. So, this 28% tax is going to hit us hard.”



It's a known fact that many standup comics who are now successful, with large audiences, got their start as struggling comics in the open mic circuit. A 28% tax on standup comedy will only further discourage aspiring comics from braving those initial years of struggle.


A petition against this tax has been launched as well. You can sign it here.


Judging by the comments by Raja and Chugani, it’s quite clear that the government’s GST rules need a serious check. Earlier, there was an outrage over 14% taxation on sanitary napkins, which is a necessity and NOT  a luxury for women.


Mr. Arun Jaitley, I hope you’re listening!  


Cover Image Source: Rajat Kapoor/Twitter