AAP MP Raghav Chadha on Thursday met union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and sought a rollback of the 12 per cent GST on inns near Amritsar’s Golden Temple, saying it is a reminder of the Mughal era jizyah tax. In a memorandum to the finance minister, the AAP’s Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab said the imposition of 12 per cent GST on sarais (inns) will increase the cost of visiting the Golden Temple from different parts of the country.
“Times like this remind us of the Mughal era when Aurangzeb imposed jizyah tax on pilgrims,” he said. Chadha demanded the central government deliberate upon whether it is morally permissible to impose additional costs on the devotees visiting the Golden Temple.
Pitching for its roll back, Chadha said the Golden Temple provides people with an open house of worship and often witnesses more than one lakh devotees visiting each day from around the world. Inns like Guru Gobind Singh NRI Niwas, Baba Deep Singh Niwas and Mata Bhag Kaur Niwas run by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) provide shelter to devotees and are operated for “Seva of Sangat (community service)”, not as profit-making ventures, he said.
The AAP’s Punjab unit, in a tweet, said, “Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab Raghav Chadha met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and submitted a letter regarding withdrawal of the decision of imposing 12 per cent GST on ‘sarais’ (inns) located near the Golden Temple in Amritsar.”
The AAP MP, who was recently appointed the chairman of a temporary advisory panel set up by the Punjab government, contended these inns are not commercial entities. The reason for their existence is “Seva (service) and not profit, and the central government seems to have ignored this crucial distinction”, he said.
Chadha termed the Centre’s decision to impose 12 per cent GST on inns an “unnecessary financial imposition on the Sangat (community)”. The cause for filling the coffers of the central government cannot be larger than fulfilling the spiritual journey of each devotee who seeks blessings at the Golden Temple, the AAP MP said.
He urged the finance minister to provide the devotees “a solution and a much-needed relief by rolling back” the decision to impose 12 per cent GST on inns. The Centre’s decision to impose 12 per cent GST on inns has caused “great anguish to the followers of the Sikh religion and to devotees who travel from across the country to visit the Sri Darbar Sahib, the holy Golden Temple”, Chadha added.
The AAP MP also sought to draw Sitharaman’s attention to “the plight of the farmers” in Punjab due to a decrease in groundwater level and requested her to sanction a financial package to address the water crisis. He also demanded a financial package for the welfare of the farmers in Punjab.
Punjab led the Green Revolution and took the initiative to grow paddy but it has resulted in depletion of the groundwater table to a dangerous level and needs urgent intervention, Chadha said. “Punjab and its farmers stood for the nation and made a huge sacrifice in times of crisis and as Punjab faces a water crisis, it is the responsibility of the Union government to grant aid in the form of a financial package,” he said.
Punjab chief minister Bhagwant Mann on Tuesday condemned the Centre for imposing GST on inns, saying it targets the pilgrims staying at the inns near the Golden Temple. He said these inns were meant for the devotees visiting the holy shrine and had always been an integral part of the gurdwara complex.