Chief minister Mamata Banerjee today demanded that the Centre should exempt the Durga Puja organisers from paying income tax.
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking the state BJP leadership to connect to the masses through Durga Puja, Miss Banerjee’s demand seems to be an effort to keep the saffron party from making inroads in the state’s biggest festival.
“I will say one thing. If political parties spend money in elections then some of them get income tax exemption under corporate fund. Durga Puja is a social function and not a commercial venture so I feel that if puja committees organise puja it should not come under the ambit of income tax,” Miss Banerjee said in response to a question on the Income Tax (IT) department seeking income tax details from Forum for Durgotsav, which is an umbrella organisation of more than 400 Durga Puja committees in the city.
Lashing out at the BJP for using the IT department as a tool to harass the Durga Puja committees, Miss Banerjee said: “Before the elections they (BJP) try to create divisions along religious lines and after polls the IT summons the puja committees. Festivals are a part of our religious customs and every single community ~ Hindus, Muslims or Christians ~ celebrate their festival here,” she said
Miss Banerjee said that Durga Pujas are held by collecting donations from common people and from funds collected through advertisements from sponsors. “This is a community programme. Seeking income tax details is condemnable and an insult to the Durga Puja committees. I am feeling sad at the manner in which they (puja committees) are being harassed,” she said
According to Miss Banerjee, Durga Puja is a prime source of employment generation. “The decorators, theme makers, pandal builders make earnings through Durga Puja that is held for four days,” she added.
She said that the way Durga Puja is celebrated in the city attracts people from across the world. “People from not only different parts of the country but also from the world turn up in the city and soak in the festive fervour. The Durga Puja carnival attracts a large number of foreigners,” she added.
Responding to Miss Banerjee’s demand, Mr Saswata Bose, general secretary of Forum for Durgotsav welcomed this.
The Durga Puja is not a profitable venture and apart from a handful of the big puja organizers it is difficult to furnish income tax details by everyone. I visited the IT department a few days back and have informed them of our problem,” Mr Bose added.