Aam Aadmi Party MP Raghav Chadha met Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday, 4 August, and sought a rollback of the 12 percent Goods and Services Tax on inns near the Golden Temple in Punjab's Amritsar, saying it is a reminder of the Mughal era 'jizya' tax.
In a memorandum submitted to Sitharaman, the Rajya Sabha MP from Punjab said the imposition of 12 percent GST on sarais (inns) will increase the cost of visiting the Golden Temple for people.
Chadha said the Golden Temple often witnesses more than a lakh devotees visiting the shrine from around the world in a day.
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 a shelter to the devotees and are operated for "seva of sangat (community service)," and not as profit-making ventures, Chadha added.
"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' located near the Golden Temple in Amritsar."AAP's Punjab unit's tweet
Chadha, who was recently appointed as the chairman of a temporary advisory panel set up by the Punjab government, contended that these inns are not commercial entities.
'For Seva, Not for Profit'
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 described the Centre's decision to impose 12 per cent GST on inns as an "unnecessary financial imposition on the sangat (community)".
The AAP leader urged the BJP-led Centre to deliberate on whether it is morally permissible to impose additional costs on the devotees visiting the Golden Temple.
He requested the finance minister to offer 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 devotees who travel from across the country to visit the Sri Darbar Sahib, the holy Golden Temple," Chadha said.
Chadha's Appeal to Sitharaman on Plight of Farmers
He also sought to draw Sitharaman's attention to "the plight of the farmers" in Punjab due to a depleting groundwater level and requested her to sanction a financial package to address the crisis.
The AAP MP also demanded a financial package for the welfare of Punjab's farmers.
Punjab led the Green Revolution and took the initiative to grow paddy, but it has resulted in the depletion of the groundwater table to "a dangerous level" and needs urgent intervention, he noted.
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 packageAAP MP Raghav Chadha
The water crisis needs to be tackled on a war footing, he added.
"The finance minister gave a patient hearing to me. I hope the Centre will take action and the stepmotherly treatment being given to Punjab for years will come to an end," Chadha told reporters after her meeting with Sitharaman.
The AAP will continue to fight for "the rights of Punjab" both in Parliament and outside, he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann condemned the Centre on Tuesday for imposing the GST on inns, saying it targets the pilgrims staying at these facilities near the Golden Temple.
Mann said these inns are meant for the devotees visiting the holy shrine and have always been an integral part of the gurdwara complex.