Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday lashed out at the BJP-led central government for tax notice issued to the Durga Puja Committees Forum, an apex body of the worship organisers in the state. She argued that the 'puja committees' must not be put under the income tax net.
Accusing the BJP of doing politics in the name of Hindu religion during elections, the chief minister rued that the same people were seeking to tax Durga Puja organisers after the polling.
"During the elections, they (the BJP) talk of the Hindu religion and then they try to collect income tax from organisers of the Durga Puja, the greatest festival of the Hindus. This is not right," said Banerjee.
The BJP is perceived in the state to be trying to gain control of the well-known Durga Puja committees in a bid to reach out to more people. The income tax notice to the Durga Puja Committees Forum was reportedly sent last week.
The chief minister argued the puja committees in the state organise Durga Puja with donations from the common people and the sponsors, and accordingly, cannot be brought under the income tax net.
She said the festival is a social function and not a commercial one while the government too has some social obligations. "The Durga Puja committees collect donations from common people and also seek sponsors to organise the 'pujas'. They don't do it from their earnings. So, where is the question of filing IT returns?" she asked.
"I condemn this attitude of the Centre to bring puja committees under the income tax net. This is an insult to the pujas. This is not a commercial function but a social one and the government has social obligations. We have a social compulsion towards the society," said Banerjee.
The forum, which comprises Durga Puja committees, has been asked by the Income Tax department to file returns on its expenses during the festival.
"The Durga Puja committees also generate thousands of employment opportunities during this time. I feel so bad the manner in which they are being harassed by the IT Department. I feel devastated," said the chief minister.