Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has urged the GST Council to grant exemption to all ingredients like ghee, edible oil and spices, for preparing "langar" (community kitchen) food served by gurudwaras.
In a letter addressed to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who is also the Chairman of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, Kumar said "even though food served through a langar is not taxable under GST, some significant inputs like sugar, ghee, edible oil, spices etc. Are taxable.
"The tax on these inputs add to the cost of the gurudwara. Imposition of tax on the aforementioned inputs should be discouraged in view of the sanctity of the langar. Hence, food provided through a langar should be relieved of any tax burden," Kumar wrote in the letter.
The Centre has exempted food supplied by religious places of worship like temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras from GST but ruled out granting tax exemption to inputs used for making prasad such as sugar, vegetable edible oils, ghee and butter.
Bihar is home to a number of gurudwaras, most renowned of them being the Takht Harmandir Patna Sahib in Patna, situated in a locality where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have been born and spent his childhood.
Sikh pilgrims from across the world visited the shrine in the past one year while the 350th "Amritotsav" (birth anniversary) of the 10th Sikh Guru - who established the Khalsa Panth tradition - was being celebrated.
"It is my considered view that the levy of tax should be limited to activities which are undertaken in the course of business. Accordingly, any activity which is not pursued as part of any business or which is not incidental or connected to any business activity should be kept away from the ambit of taxation," Kymar said in his letter dated April 12, 2018.
"In this context, you will agree that gurudwaras are engaged in charitable activities and well-recognized as centres of selfless service. The most prominent of such activities is providing food through langars, to everyone and anyone who visits a gurudwara. The system of langar has been in vogue since the inception of the Panth and it is an activity embedded in benevolent Sikh tradition," Kumar said.
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