Stating that religious festivals should be exempted from Income Tax, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday slammed the BJP government at the Centre for sending I-T notices to Durga Puja committees in West Bengal.
“Festivals are festivals. Many political parties do not have to pay Income Tax for the funds they spend during the elections. Then why would Durga Puja committees have to pay tax? I condemn this attitude. Moreover, these pujas are mostly organised after collecting donations from people and through sponsorships. People who give subscriptions to these puja committees already pay Income Tax, and also the companies that sponsor the pujas give GST. Durga Puja is not a commercial function, it is a social function. So the government cannot levy Income Tax from them,” Mamata told mediapersons at the state Secretariat here.
In January, the I-T Department had sent notices to over 20 Durga Puja committees of Kolkata. Recently, there were reports that more Durga Puja committees were issued similar IT notices.
Hitting out at the BJP for “insulting” the Durga Puja festivals by asking puja committees to pay tax, Mamata said, “When the election comes, they (BJP) indulges in Hindu-Muslim politics. When elections are over, they do this side and that side. They are asking puja committees to pay Income Tax. This is not right. They are being harassed. People of all religions attend the Durga Puja. This should not happen. It is an insult to Durga Puja.”
The Chief Minister said her government had paid an honorarium of Rs 10,000 to the Durga Puja organisers last year as “it’s a social obligation to support them”.
“One can capture the walls, capture the EVM machines, but one cannot capture peoples’ hearts with money. BJP should first learn to win over peoples’ hearts,” Mamata added.