Bowing to the demand to exempt community kitchens, better known as ‘langar’, of gurdwaras from Goods and Services Tax (GST), Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced waiver of the state government’s 50 per cent share in the GST on the community kitchen at the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple in Amritsar).
The Punjab Assembly also passed a unanimous resolution to seek total waiver from the Centre.
The CM also announced similar waiver on GST on langar at two other famous religious places Durgiana Mandir and Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath Sthal in Amritsar.
He also directed officials of the concerned department to work out modalities for similar waiver at religious shrines of other communities.
Intervening in a discussion on the issue, Amarinder said his government will not take its share of the GST on the langar items but would refund the same to the Darbar Sahib.
He pointed out that his government had, back in 2002, waived off Sales Tax on all langar items, which had been levied by the previous SAD government.
The CM lambasted the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and its ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), for not opposing the imposition of GST at religious places.
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.
Meanwhile, 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.
The resolution, which was passed by voice vote, had been moved by Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, who also came down heavily on the Akalis for supporting the Centre on the issue, pointing out that even the Afghan, Turk and British rulers never imposed any tax on Darbar Sahib.
The Congress government had raised this issue thrice before the GST council, but their request had been rejected outright by the Union finance minister, said Manpreet Singh Badal.
Badal suggested that the resolution seeking total waiver from the central government should be worded in such a way that the Akalis are entrusted with the responsibility to get it done by the Centre, failing which they should resign from the Union Cabinet.