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How can there be tax on religious and community service, asks SGPC

SGPC chief says he is aghast at the 'additional tax burden of Rs 10-cr' for running its 'sewa'

IANS  |  Chandigarh 

How can there be tax on religious and community service, asks SGPC

Questioning the logic of the central government and the Council imposing a on and done for common people, the (SGPC), which manages Sikh shrines in Punjab and runs a "langar" (free community kitchen) for hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis, has made its displeasure known.

president Kirpal Singh Badungar says that he is aghast at the "additional burden of nearly Rs 10 crore" (Rs 100 million) on the for running its free and voluntary "sewa" (community service).

"There is doing social and service for the betterment of the people. The (Narendra) Modi government and (Union Finance Minister) Arun Jaitley have imposed this unwarranted burden on us. Jaitley is misleading the people by saying that there is no on 'kara-prasad' (sacrament). All ingredients like ghee, flour, sugar and other things that go into making the prasad have been taxed heavily," Badungar pointed out.

Having written letters to the Finance Minister, the Council and now even to the Punjab government, the is seeking exemption for itself from the (GST), saying that it is carrying out the sewa for the overall welfare of people -- irrespective of religion, caste, colour, gender or creed.

"This is like taxing the sentiments of people. This means that the government wants to impose on the sewa that does. Can we compromise on the quality of our service? It is done 24x7.

We cannot stop doing this," a clearly upset Badungar said.

He pointed out that the runs langars for hundreds of thousands of people, gives kara prasad, maintains 'sarais' (shelters for people to stay) and other gurdwara buildings, helps poor and needy children as well as students, and performs a host of other social activities.

"The will have to pay Rs 10 crore annually as under the We want Jaitley and the Modi government to review its decision. We have written to the government again on this. We will hold a meeting of the on this issue," said Badungar, who oversees its Rs 1,100-crore annual budget.

The runs the world's largest community kitchen -- feeding an average 50,000 devotees on week days and over 100,000 on weekends and festivals with freshly cooked food at the Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple, in Amritsar.

The does not give any exemptions to bodies for purchases, while the was previously exempt from VAT and other taxes that have been subsumed into the

Ghee, sugar and pulses have been put in the 12, 18 and five per cent slabs. Even the gas used for cooking is now taxed.

Besides the Golden Temple, the runs the langar service in other famous Sikh shrines like Takht Keshgarh Sahib in Anandpur Sahib (where the modern day Khalsa Panth was established on April 13, 1699, by Guru Gobind Singh), Takht Damdama Sahib at Talwandi Sabo in Bathinda district and scores of other gurdwaras under it.

The langar sewa is a socio-activity that is part of the Sikh ethos from the time of the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev (1469-1539). The langar was started to emphasise equality in society regardless of religion, caste, colour or creed.

Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had recently written to Jaitely to exempt from all purchases made by the for langar sewa.

Hundreds of people volunteer on a daily basis at the Golden Temple complex and other gurdwaras to prepare and serve food and wash used utensils at the langars. The volunteers include scores of women and children as well. People partake langar while sitting on the floor in the langar halls of the gurdwaras.

The completely vegetarian langar service is funded from donations made by people at gurdwaras.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, July 18 2017. 13:15 IST