THE CENTRE has not responded to requests made by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) and SAD (Badal) MP and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal to exempt the apex body of Sikhs from paying GST on the purchase of goods to run the free community kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
SGPC President Kirpal Singh Badungar is still “optimistic” and has written another letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley seeking an appointment with them to explain why SGPC should be exempted from paying GST. Badungar said, “The Union government has not responded to our first letter yet. We have written another letter to the PM and FM seeking their time to explain our case. SGPC will face Rs 10-crore financial burden due to the GST.” He added, “We are not any profit-making organisation. We hope the Union government will listen to us and exempt GST on the purchase of goods for community kitchens.”
In the pre-GST era, Golden Temple Amritsar, Takht Damdama Sahib Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda, and Takht Keshgarh Sahib, Anandpur Sahib, were exempted from paying tax for purchasing materials to run community kitchens. Some other religious organisations in Punjab, like Durgiana Temple, too, had been given tax exemptions.
SGPC employees would give a list written on the letterhead of these gurdwaras to buy materials free of cost in the market.
The Punjab government had provided these exemptions to SGPC and other religious bodies in Punjab. All these exemptions came to an end once the Goods and Services Tax came into force. Now, the state government has no power to exempt SGPC from paying any kind of tax.
Hence, Harsimrat Kaur has shot off a separate letter to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to resume the old exemptions under the new tax system controlled by the Centre.
Explaining the impact of GST on community kitchen, Golden Temple manager Sulakhan Singh said, “Earlier, there was 4 per cent tax on desi ghee. We were exempted from paying this tax. Now, tax on ghee under GST has been increased from 4 per cent to 12 per cent. It means now we will have to buy 50 kg ghee by paying Rs 600 more.” He added, “We were spending around Rs 75 crore annually on buying ghee, pulses, sugar, vegetables, spices, wheat, rice and other items to run the community kitchen, where more than 50,000 devotees have langar every day on an average. Now, we are being made to pay tax which is even higher than the old system.”
SAD (Badal) has been an alliance partner at the Centre and there would not only be financial but also political ramifications if SGPC failed to convince the Centre to grant exemption from paying GST.