CHANDIGARH: Chief minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced waiver of the state government’s 50% share in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on community kitchen (langar) at Golden Temple, Durgiana Temple, Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath and key shrines of the other communities.
The Punjab assembly also unanimously passed a resolution seeking complete waiver from the Centre as it was the BJP that had majority representation in the GST council.
The issue came up during the discussion on the governor’s address and Congress Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said it was unfortunate that despite having representation in the Union cabinet, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) had got been able to get the GST exemption.
To this, SAD’s former finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa said the decision has to be taken by the GST council where Punjab is represented by finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal. “The Centre cannot waive it. The council has to do it with a majority,” he said.
During the course of the discussion, the suggestion for state waiver of the GST came from leader of the Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who said while the matter is taken up with the Centre, the state should take the lead by exempting Golden Temple’s community kitchen from the GST. “Thousands of devotees partake langar at the Darbar Sahib and losing out on some revenue should not matter,” he said.
Manpreet said it was a matter of record that the Punjab government had thrice raised the issue of getting the GST waiver for Darbar Sahib in meetings of the GST council. “But it is the BJP states that have majority there. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has out rightly rejected the demand. Turks, Afghans and British have ruled Punjab but they never imposed tax on Darbar Sahib. I would make a request to the CM to make an exemption of the state’s share,” he said.
Amarinder told the House, “This is not the first time that such a discussion is taking place in the assembly. During the previous regime of the Congress in 2002 replacing Akalis, there used to be sales tax that was charged on Guru Ram Das Langar. We had stopped it. Now we will put an end to the GST.”
This was followed by a thumping of desks and sloganeering. AAP’s Khaira welcomed the decision. “Jaitley cannot reject the demand and we should send a resolution to Delhi for a total waiver,” he said. Dhindsa said the SAD too welcomed the decision.
On a clarification sought by BJP’s Som Prakash, Amarinder said there would be similar waiver on the GST on langar or prasad for Durgiana Mandir and Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal. Amarinder also directed officials of the department concerned to work out modalities for similar waiver at revered religious shrines of other communities.
The resolution moved by Manpreet Badal and seconded by Brahm Mohindra, was passed by voice vote. The House unanimously passed the resolution to press the central government to immediately waive off its GST share on the langar items at Sri Darbar Sahib and Durgiana Mandir.
Meanwhile, Amarinder criticised the SAD and its ally, the BJP, for not opposing the imposition of the GST before the GST Council. Pointing out that this was not the first time the subject came up for discussion in the House, he said it was obvious that SAD was only trying to gain political mileage from the issue as it was not doing anything to force the BJP-led government at the Centre to waive off the GST on langar.