Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has recommended to the Goods and Services (GST) Council to excuse ingredients such as ghee, edible oil, spices, etc, used while preparing food in langars (community kitchens) by gurdwaras, the Sikh places of workship.
The Bihar CM is learnt to have written a letter to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, saying, “even though food served through a langar is not taxable under GST, some significant inputs like sugar, ghee, edible oil, spices etc. are taxable. The tax on these inputs add to the cost of the gurudwara. Imposition of tax on the aforementioned inputs should be discouraged in view of the sanctity of the langar. Hence, food provided through a langar should be relieved of any tax burden,” news agency PTI reported. Jaitley also serves as the Chairman of the GST Council.
While the Central government has exempted food provided by places of worship such as mosques, temples, gurdwaras and churches from the tax slab under the new regime, ingrediets used in preparation of ‘prasad’ such as ghee, oil, butter, sugar, etc, are not.
Bihar is home to many gurdwaras, the most famous one being being the Takht Harmandir Patna Sahib in Patna, situated in a locality where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have been born and spent his childhood.
Sikhs from around the world visited the shrine in the past one year while the 350th “Amritotsav” (birth anniversary) of the 10th Sikh Guru – who established the Khalsa Panth tradition – was celebrated.
“It is my considered view that the levy of tax should be limited to activities which are undertaken in the course of business. Accordingly, any activity which is not pursued as part of any business or which is not incidental or connected to any business activity should be kept away from the ambit of taxation,” Kumar said in his letter dated April 12, 2018.
“In this context, you will agree that gurudwaras are engaged in charitable activities and well-recognized as centres of selfless service. The most prominent of such activities is providing food through langars, to everyone and anyone who visits a gurudwara. The system of langar has been in vogue since the inception of the Panth and it is an activity embedded in benevolent Sikh tradition,” Kumar said.
In February this year, news agency IANS had reported that the cash-rich Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) had claimed to have been reeling under the burder of GST taxes while providing free food services. The SGPC maintaines gurudwaras in Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. The Committee claimed to have paid Rs two crore GST from July 1, 2017, to January 31, 2018, on different items at the Golden Temple in Amritsar alone.
“The SGPC has paid Rs 2 crore as GST, while purchasing ration for langar and parshad, ever since the new tax regime came into force last year. From July 1, 2017, to January 31, 2018, we have paid Rs 2 crore as GST on purchase of different items required in the langar at the Golden Temple,” SGPC spokesperson Diljit Singh Bedi had told IANS.
(With agency inputs)