Golden Temple, Amritsar has paid Rs 2 crore Good and Services Tax (GST) since its inception in July 2017, on the purchase of ration for the world’s largest community kitchen popularly known as Langar. The Golden Temple bears an expense of about Rs 75 crore annually to feed about 55,000 to 60,000 devotees daily.
Finance Ministry had earlier released a misleading information stating that all the community free food services provided at the religious institutions will be exempted from the ambit of GST.
GST of Rs 2 crore paid by Golden Temple on Langar items
Golden Temple, Amritsar, feeds about 55,000 to 60,000 on weekdays and over 100,000 people on weekends. People from all the religions, cultures, castes, countries and gender are welcomed with the same enthusiasm.
As per official report, between July 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018, Golden Temple purchased about Rs 20.17 crore worth of ration for the langar. The new GST slab imposed an extra burden of Rs 1.9 crore. The tax levied on the ghee, which is the main ingredient used, was about 12%. This amounted to Rs 1.5 crore which was charged on the purchase of 4,188 quintals of ghee.
A tax of Rs 12.08 lakh was paid on sugar after a tax slab of 5% was imposed. Additionally, taxes of Rs 87,425 and Rs 37, 345 were imposed on the purchase of mustard oil (1,300 tins) and refined oil (700 tins) respectively.
A tax of Rs 10.77 lakh was paid on 1,230 quintals of dry milk. And on 4,440 kg of tea, a tax of Rs 65,756 was paid.
Notably, the “dunas”, which are the small bowls made of leaves used to carry karah prasad and “pattal”, a plate made of leaves attracted tax of Rs 1.7 lakh on 11,982 units and Rs 35,000 on 2,746 units respectively.
During the pre-GST era, under the regime of SAD-BJP government, all the items purchased for the langar kitchen were exempted from VAT.
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee(SGPC) spokesperson, Diljit Singh Bedi said, “From July 1, 2017 to January 31, 2018, they have paid Rs 2 crore as GST on purchase of different items required in the langar at the Golden Temple.”
The SGPC officials told Hindustan Times, “The SGPC has been fighting for getting exemption from the GST on langar items through letters and deputations. However, its efforts have failed to bear fruit so far.”
Vague information released by the finance ministry
In July last year, the finance ministry said that free food supplied in anna kshetras run by religious institutions were exempted from paying GST.
An official statement issued by the ministry said, “Further, prasadam supplied by religious places like temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, dargahs, attracts nil Central GST and State GST or Integrated GST, as the case may be.”
After some groups including the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee had sought exemption from GST for inputs, the finance ministry issued a clarification, ruling out giving tax exemptions on items used for making prasadam such as sugar, vegetable edible oils, ghee, butter and on services such as transport of these items. The official statement said, “Most of these inputs or input services have multiple uses. Under the GST regime, it is difficult to prescribe a separate rate of tax for such inputs when supplied for a particular purpose.”
SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal, accused Finance Minister Arun Jaitley of giving out misleading statements about the exemption of GST for the community food. Jaitley had said,”no GST has been imposed on the food served in langars in the various gurdwaras“.
Longowal The New Indian Express, “If his statement of GST exemption was true he should issue the notification in this regard. We haven’t received any official communication. We have been paying tax since its implementation. I intend to show him documentary proof of mammoth economic burden we have been bearing for a service that was initiated by our Gurus and which is largely funded by offerings made by the devotees who come to pay obeisance at the shrines.”
The SGPC’s regular pleas for GST exemption on langar purchase to the Finance Ministry, Home Ministry and GST Council fell on deaf ears.
The Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has written to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to exempt all purchases made by SGPC for langar from the GST.