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Saturday, 5 December 2015

Refusal to rollback tax on chopper service insult to religious sentiments: Congress

The state unit of Congress today accused the ruling PDP-BJP coalition government of insulting the religious sentiments of the people, by refusing to withdraw the service tax imposed on the helicopter service to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine. 

"Refusal to rollback the service tax on the helicopter services for Mata Vaishno Devi is an insult to the religious sentiments of the people," chief spokesman of the JKPCC Ravinder Sharma said. 

He was reacting to the statement of the J&K finance minister Haseeb Drabu in which he had justified the imposition of service tax on the pilgrims. 

"If there is no problem in paying Municipal taxes and tax by Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, what is problem in paying Rs 100 tax to us (State government)," Drabu told reporters here yesterday. 

"Who uses chopper services? Only rich and elite? They can pay and have no problem in paying," he had said. 

Sharma said that it reflects a total insensitive approach of the present dispensation towards the "religious sentiments" of the people and a slap on the face of BJP which had announced that the same shall be withdrawn. 

"The utter failure of the BJP over the issue exposes its double standards as well as its total surrender and helplessness for the sake of power." 

"It is ironical that the party which always cried hoarse over the issue of religious sentiments, has led to imposition of pilgrims tax, when came to power for first time in the State," Sharma said. 

He claimed that on the contrary, the previous government in which Congress was coalition partner, amended the Panchayat Raj Act and deleted a sub-clause, which had empowered the Panchayats to impose pilgrim tax. 

"This was done to respect the religious sentiments of the public," he said. 

Questioning the logic of the government behind imposition of tax on the helicopter that "only rich" use the service, JKPCC Chief Spokesman said that, it was not the question as to "who can pay for it but these steps amount to hurting the religious sentiments of the people, causing great resentment over the indifferent treatment." 

"Since this Country has tradition of offering subsidies and extending other facilities for the pilgrimages. 

"Moreover the facility is not availed by the rich only but also by the aged, ailing, physically challenged and others who cannot trek the difficult journey but have desire to seek blessings of Vaishno Devi and other such shrines," he added. 

The Finance Department in September this year issued a notification levying a sales tax of 12.5 per cent on the "commercial helicopter services operating within the state". 

The move led to criticism of the state government from many quarters as they claimed that it was targeted at Vaishno Devi and Amarnath pilgrims.

Source : TOI Via PTI , 5 Dec 2015 

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