While the government’s decision to hike by five per cent the customs duty on imported books created a ripple across the publishing industry, Tamil publishers claimed that the move will neither benefit them nor affect the regional industry.
On Friday (July 5), Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a five percent customs duty to be imposed on imported books. The government reasoned that the revenue earned will benefit the local publishing industry. But, the publishers don’t think so.
After the announcement, several writers, publishers and even readers took to social media to express their discontent with the move. They also criticised the government for adding printed books to the list of other ordinary objects such as consumer goods.
Publishers in regional languages, like Tamil, said the move will not affect them. But, it will affect the research scholars to a great extent, said Nagaraj, publisher, Bharathi Puthakalayam.
“Readers opt for English books when they do not find books related to their field of study in their regional languages. Imposing tax on the imported books will affect the readers’ community in the country,” he said. The tax on imported books will not benefit us at all, he added.
The central government doesn’t know the difference between books and crackers, said Manushya Puthiran, writer and proprietor of the publication ‘Uyirmai’. “Levying tax on imported goods can benefit the local industry if the taxable products are fast moving consumer goods like electronic appliances and automobiles.
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“But, books are a part of knowledge industry. Here, we are exchanging ideas and knowledge with western countries and that is how knowledge propagates. The move shows that the government is not ready to entertain knowledge coming from the West,” he said.
Terming the announcement as an ‘injustice’, the writer said that instead of taxing imported books, the government could have found ways to decrease the burden on the local publishing industry. “They could have provided concessions on paper prices and reduce the GST on printing. Due to GST, publishing costs increase. As a result, books become expensive and we lose our readers,” he added.
Another publisher, Kannan Sundaram of Kalachuvadu, opined that the duty on imported books will not have any major impact on the regional publishing industry.
“I think this duty will be imposed mostly on academic publications. Academic books are mostly published in English. Those publishers use specialised materials like art papers and their books usually cost around ₹2,000 and ₹3,000. Addition of a few more hundreds will not have much impact on the buyers,” he said.
Meanwhile, tax was also levied on imported newsprint papers. “Most of the regional publishers depend on imported newsprint due to their good quality. The tax, when imposed, will make the publishers turn towards the local markets,” he added.