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Gurdwaras feel the GST pinch in serving free langars

IANS  |  Chandigarh/Amritsar 

The popular community kitchen -- better known as the "langar" -- of gurdwaras in is feeling the pinch of the GST regime that came into force seven months ago.

The cash-rich Shiromani Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), which manages gurdwaras, or Sikh shrines, across Punjab, and Himachal Pradesh, has claimed that the (GST) is putting an extra burden on its finances in running the service.

At the complex, which is home to the holiest of Sikh shrines, the Harmandir Sahib, the SGPC claims to have paid nearly Rs 2 crore (about $310,000) as GST.

The complex provides over 100,000 people on weekends and other rush days. On normal days, over 50,000 people partake served selflessly at the complex to people from various religions, cultures, castes, countries and gender.

The community kitchen, which serves completely vegetarian food, at the complex is one of the largest such in the world.

"The SGPC has paid Rs 2 crore as GST, while purchasing ration for and parshad, ever since the new tax regime came into force last year. From July 1, 2017, to January 31, 2018, we have paid Rs 2 crore as GST on purchase of different items required in the at the Golden Temple," SGPC said.

Hundreds of tonnes of wheat flour, desi ghee, pulses, vegetables, milk, sugar and rice are used, along with millions of litres of water, annually at the complex and other gurdwaras to prepare

The SGPC, which has written to Narendra Modi, and the in the past, continues to fight to get GST exemption on the purchase of raw material that it has to procure.

SGPC officials say that gurdwaras across the country could be serving to nearly 10 million people on a daily basis.

The SGPC is also upset with Jaitley's recent statement that "no GST has been imposed on the served in langars in the various gurdwaras".

SGPC Longowal recently took exception to the statement.

"The statement is far from the truth and facts. GST is being charged on the purchase of items," Longowal pointed out in

"GST is levied on only products that are sold. in gurdwaras is distributed free, so there is no question of levying GST. There is no GST on atta or rice, if somebody says that I am buying ghee for temple," Jaitley was recently quoted as saying.

The "One Tax" regime under the newly-introduced GST, as per the SGPC estimates, is going to put an extra burden of over Rs 10 crore on this socio-religious activity at the complex in and other gurdwaras.

The SGPC, the mini-parliament of the Sikh that manages Sikh shrines, which has an over Rs 1,100-crore annual budget, wants the and the central government to exempt purchases made for the sewa from GST.

Various items procured for the fall in different tax slabs ranging from five to 18 per cent.

Besides the Golden Temple, the SGPC runs the 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 district and scores of other gurdwaras under it.

The Sewa is a socio-religious activity that is part of the Sikh religious ethos from the time of the first Sikh Guru, Nanak Dev (1469-1539). It was started to emphasise equality in society regardless of religion, caste, colour and creed. The service is funded from donations made by people at the gurdwaras.

"The SGPC spends around Rs 75 crore to purchase desi ghee, sugar and pulses. Now, it will have to bear a financial burden of Rs 10 crore on these purchases as they come under the 5 to 18 per cent GST bracket," Processing Minister wrote to Jaitely last year, seeking exemption from the GST Act for all purchases made by the SGPC for sewa.

The GST Act provides for exempting eligible institutions/businesses but only on the GST Council's recommendation.

After being initiated by Guru Nanak Dev, the Guru ka tradition was fully established by the third Sikh Guru, It is said that even Mughal once came and partook among the ordinary people.

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



(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, February 13 2018. 12:32 IST