12% GST on sarais reminds of Mughal-era ‘Jizyah’ tax: Chadha to Sitharaman

Terming 12 per cent GST on inns near the Golden Temple as a reminder of the Mughal era “Jizyah” tax, AAP MP Raghav Chadha Thursday met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Thursday and sought its rollback. In a memorandum submitted to Sitharaman, the Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab said 12 per cent GST on “sarais” will increase the cost of visiting the Golden Temple.

Chadha said the Golden Temple often witnesses more than one lakh devotees visiting the shrine from around the world in a day.

Inns like Guru Gobind Singh NRI Niwas, Baba Deep Singh Niwas and Mata Bhag Kaur Niwas run by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) provide a shelter to the devotees and are operated for “seva of sangat (community service)”, not as profit-making ventures, said Chadha, who was recently appointed as the chairman of a temporary advisory panel set up by the Punjab government.

He contended that these inns are not commercial entities. The reason for their existence is “seva (service) and not profit, and the central government seems to have ignored this crucial distinction”, he said.

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Chadha described the Centre’s decision to impose 12 per cent GST on inns as an “unnecessary financial imposition on the sangat (community)”. The cause for filling the coffers of the Centre cannot be larger than fulfilling the spiritual journey of the devotees who seek blessings at the Golden Temple, he said.

“Times like these remind us of the Mughal era when Aurangzeb imposed the ‘Jizyah’ tax on pilgrims,” he said. The AAP leader urged the BJP-led Centre to deliberate on whether it is morally permissible to impose additional costs on the devotees visiting the Golden Temple.

He requested the finance minister to offer the devotees “a solution and a much-needed relief by rolling back” the decision which has caused “great anguish to the followers of the Sikh religion and devotees who travel from across the country to visit the Sri Darbar Sahib”.

He also sought to draw Sitharaman’s attention to “the plight of the farmers” in Punjab due to a depleting groundwater level and requested her to sanction a financial package to address the crisis.

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The AAP MP also demanded a financial package for the welfare of Punjab’s farmers.

Punjab led the Green Revolution and took the initiative to grow paddy, but it has resulted in the depletion of the groundwater table to “a dangerous level” and needs urgent intervention, he noted.

“Punjab and its farmers stood for the nation and made a huge sacrifice in times of crisis and as Punjab faces a water crisis, it is the responsibility of the Union government to grant aid in the form of a financial package,” Chadha said. The water crisis needs to be tackled on a war footing, he added.

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