However, we found that the claim is false. The claim made in the graphic has existed on social media since 2018 and has no news reports or government announcement to back it. Additionally, there is no mention of taxes being waived for any community on the basis of their religion in the state’s Budget for the current fiscal year or in 2018 – the first time when the claim emerged.
The graphic is being shared to claim that the West Bengal government would pay taxes on behalf of Muslim business people.
WHAT WE FOUND OUT
We saw that the graphic carried a Hindi watermark that read ‘Patrika Today’ in the background.
Using English keywords, we looked for news reports to check whether any such announcement had been made in West Bengal, but did not find any.
Next, we looked for more information using Hindi keywords with the former minister’s name. The results led us to a blog page with the name ‘Patrika Today’ and found the same graphic there.
As per the page’s URL, the page was published in July 2018. This page carried a tweet from 2018 with the photo of a newspaper article that made the same claim.
Here, we saw that the headline of the article misspelt the word ‘businessmen’ in Hindi. Even if one were to ignore that as a typo, on looking up for the headline, we found no relevant news reports.
Further, it should be noted that the finance portfolio in West Bengal is currently held by Chandrima Bhattacharya, taking Mitra’s place earlier in 2022.
Next, we checked the state’s Budget for the current fiscal year (FY 2022-2023) as well as FY 2018-2019, when the claim first emerged.
For FY 2022-23, the West Bengal government has proposed rural and educational tax exemptions for those employed in the tea industry and waiving road and registration taxes for those purchasing electric and CNG automobiles.
It also extended a rebate on taxes for home buyers by six months.
Here, we saw that the only mention of ‘Muslim’ in the Budget was under a state development scheme, which aims at “Construction of Boundary Wall surrounding Muslim/ Christain Graveyards (sic). ”
The FY 2018-2019 Budget, too, mentioned no such exemption.
The government had proposed to exempt businesses with an annual turnover less than one and a half crore rupees from paying GST, irrespective of religion.
Clearly, the West Bengal government has not made any announcement regarding the state paying taxes on behalf of Muslim business people. The viral claim is fabricated and has no evidence to support it.