CHANDIGARH: With Union Government deciding to provide special financial assistance to all charitable religious bodies across the country that serve free food to public, thus now langar served at the Golden Temple will 'not attract' Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST).
Sources said that the Golden temple besides other religious bodies across the country which serve free food (langar) will have to pay both these taxes CGST and IGST on the raw material (atta, rice, sugar, ghee, pulses, salt, masalas, dry fruits, tea) bought by them to prepare the food but these taxes will be refunded by the union government.
The order in this regard have been issued by the central government after the President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the special financial assistance for Sewa Bhoj Yojana Scheme which has been launched for two years (2018-19 and 2019-20) with an outlay of Rs 350 crore.
The GST is not levied on food served in the langar, but is charged on the purchase of raw materials used to prepare the food.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has welcomed union government’s move to waive off GST and thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the president of SGPC, Gobind Singh Longowal said, "this waiver is a result of these effortsmade by the Shiromani Akali Dal in this direction."
Longowal said the waiver will make the gurdwaras free from this financial burden and the amount, which was paid as GST, will be spent on social welfare. "The move is praiseworthy but now the government should also decide to return the amount it has charged so far," he added.
Daljit Singh Bedi of SGPC said that the committee had paid around Rs 3.20 crore as GST on the purchase of items for the langar served at Golden Temple’s community kitchen which is the biggest in the world.
The SGPC spends around Rs 75 crore per year to purchase desi ghee, sugar, pulses and raw material used in langar. In Golden temple alone daily some 100 kg rice, around 30 kg each of dal and vegetables and 250 kg of desi ghee are used daily to cook the food and over 100 LPG domestic cylinders are used daily for the cooking along with hundreds of kilograms of firewood for the traditional cooking. Around Rs 15 lakh is daily expense.
About 70,000 to 80,000 people visit the holy shrine and on weekends this number increases to 1.25 lakh to 1.50 lakh per day. On auspicious days like, Gurparab, Diwali, Baisakhi, the number touches to 6 lakhs. Of these, about 50 per cent of the devotees eat Langar served in the Golden Temple.
The Punjab Government has already waived off its share of GST on the purchase of langar items.
Under the new GST Act, there is provision for exemption to institutions and businesses on the recommendation of the GST Council. Thus many delegation of SGPC and also of Shiromani Akali Dal leader lead by it’s president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal had met the Prime Minister Modi and then Union Minister Arun Jaitely and also have written letters to waive of GST.
The decision will cover Golden Temple and all five thakhats, Akal takhat Sahib, KeshGarh Sahib, Patna Sahib, Damadama Sahib and Nanded Sahib, in addition to all Gurdwaras, including managed by the SGPC, the Delhi Sikh Gurdwaran Mangment Committee as well as all other shrines regardless of their religions.
"We have no words to thank the bold, decisive and magnanimous Prime Minister for this unprecedented, historic and never-- before decision since independence. It is the Government’s token offering to the spirit of this unique tradition started by the great Gurus," said SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal and the Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.