NEW DELHI: Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has taken up cudgels with her colleague in the Council of Ministers, Arun Jaitley, making a case for exempting purchases made for langar from GST, but kept her demand for such exemption limited to only Sri Harmandir Sahib and three Sikh takhts located in Punjab.
It was not clear whether the decision of the Minister of State for Food Processing to not argue for a similar relief for other historical gurdwaras and two Takhts outside Punjab was a thought-through decision or a mere oversight.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal, forwarded a letter from SGPC chief Kirpal Singh Badungar, making a similar plea, to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
With such a move, Harsimrat is also following in the footsteps of her late mother-in-law, Surinder Kaur Badal, who spent later years of her life in serving the cause of langar at Sri Harmandir Sahib.
Explaining the immense importance of "langar", and the fact that "Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar runs the worlds’s largest mega kitchen, offering free meals throughout the year to lakhs of people," Harsimrat also underlined that the great tradition is funded with money that "comes from the humble offerings of devotees."
With such a move, Harsimrat is also following in the footsteps of her late mother-in-law, Surinder Kaur Badal, who spent later years of her life in serving the cause of langar at Sri Harmandir Sahib. She used to take a keen interest in the "langar sewa" and widely toured Punjab's towns and villages to inspire people to participate in this institutionalised form of 'sewa'.
Harsimrat Kaur Badal also pointed out that "even in the erstwhile VAT regime, the langar purchases (were) never subjected to VAT."
Here is the complete text of Hasimrat Kaur Badal's letter to Arun Jaitley:
Respected Shri Arun Jaitley ji,
I am forwarding the letter of Prof. Kirpal Singh ‘Badungar’, President, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee for granting exemption from G.S.T. Act for purchases related to Langar and other items for Gurudwaras.
You are aware that the concept of Langar and Community Kitchen was started by Sri Guru Nanak Devji in 1481 to propagate the principle of equality in society regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. Serving Langar to all is the best example of community sharing, inclusiveness and oneness of all mankind.
Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar runs the worlds’s largest mega kitchen, offering free meals throughout the year to lakhs of people, donation for which comes from the humble offerings of devotees which is spent on distributing free Langar.
Even in the erstwhile VAT regime, the Langar purchases have never been subjected to VAT. Notification no.S.O.27/P.A.8/2008 dated 15 April, 2008 of Government of Punjab exempted Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar and also separate notifications exempting Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Takhat Sri Anandpur Sahib, Ropr and Takhat Sri Damdama Sahib, Talwandi Sabo, Bathinda from payment of VAT. Such exemption would not be available from 1st July, 2017.
The new G.S.T. Act (section 11 of G.S.T. Act & section 6 of I.G.S.T Act) also provides for exemption to be granted to various institutions/businesses eligible for same in the eyes of the Government on the recommendation of G.S.T. Council.
Presently procurement of Langar items like Desi Ghee, Sugar and Pulses by SGPC runs into roughly Rs.75 crores annually which will now be under the G.S.T. bracket of 5 to 18 percent, thus, increasing the financial burden by Rs.10 crores on Gurudwaras,
I humbly request you to kindly have this examined for grant of exemption to the Langar purchases made by Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Takhat Sri Kesgarh Sahib, Takhat Sri Anandpur Sahib, Ropar and Takhat Sri Damdama Sabo, Bathinda under G.S.T. so that the Gurudwaras may not be burdened for providing Langar and serving humanity.
(HARSIMRAT KAUR BADAL)
Punjab Today believes in serious, engaging, narrative journalism at a time when mainstream media houses seem to have given up on long-form writing and news television has blurred or altogether erased the lines between news and slapstick entertainment. We at Punjab Today believe that readers such as yourself appreciate cerebral journalism, and would like you to hold us against the best international industry standards. Brickbats are welcome even more than bouquets, though an occasional pat on the back is always encouraging. Good journalism can be a lifeline in these uncertain times worldwide. You can support us in myriad ways. To begin with, by spreading word about us and forwarding this reportage. Stay engaged.
— Team PT