It’s just been three days since a large group of Malayalis joined Twitter en masse (#KeralaComesToTwitter) to fight misinformation about their state on the social media platform. On Friday, they had a fight on their hands.
What’s ticked them off? A recent GST ruling by the Karnataka bench of Authority for Advance Rulings which put roti and parotta in two different GST slabs. The ruling said food items like the Malabar parotta and whole wheat parotta would be subject to a higher GST rate of 18% against the 5% that was applied to khakhra, plain chapati and roti, Times of India reported.
Parotta, a flaky flatbread made of maida, is widely consumed in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. It’s unclear if 18% GST is also likely to apply to paratha and paratha wraps which were previously in the same category. The ruling did not mention this.
The bench said it had distinguished between the two products because rotis were a ready-to-use food preparation while parottas needed to be heated before they could be consumed and hence could not be classified under Entry 99A of Schedule 1 of GST notifications as roti was.
This justification did not quite fly with parotta lovers who were soon trending #handsoffporotta on Twitter.
As the trend took off, Kerala Tourism stepped in quietly with a photo of parotta.
This is not the first time food has been a point of contention for the state. Indian Railways faced a backlash in January after a new IRCTC menu replaced popular Kerala snacks with North Indian ones for Rajdhani, Shatabdi, and Duronto trains and food stalls at stations in the state. The move was rolled back after much outrage and a letter written by Ernakulam MP Hibi Eden to Railway minister Piyush Goyal.
The same month, Kerala Tourism’s photo of a beef dish had kicked up controversy because it was tweeted on the same day as Makar Sankranti, Pongal and Bihu.
While intense outrage and backlash on social media is not new, Malayalis this week decided to make a concerted effort to increase their presence on Twitter to combat fake news about Kerala. The state’s social media users are usually more active on Facebook and Instagram.
The move to Twitter, planned by several like-minded Malayali Facebook groups, was prompted by the controversy surrounding the death of an elephant in the state and the communal colour that was subsequently given to the incident.