Raghav Chadha demands rollback of GST on Sarais (Photo Credit: Social Media)
Aam Aadmi party (AAP) senior leader and Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha on Thursday met Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and drew her attention towards several burning issues of Punjab., chief among them being imposition of 12% GST imposition on Sarais (inns) in the area around the Golden Temple complex.
Addressing a press conference, MP Chadha said that he has submitted a memorandum to the union minister demanding immediate roll back of the GST on 'sarais' and the latter has assured him that all demands will be considered seriously. Chadha said that he also sought a Special Financial Package and additional water resources for the welfare of the Farmers of Punjab and also to address the issue of depleting water crisis. This is a matter which needs urgent attention if Punjab and its farmers are to be saved, he added.
In his memorandum to the finance minister, the AAP MP said that the Central Government’s recent decision to impose 12 percent GST on Sarais has caused great anguish to the followers of the Sikh religion and to devotees who travel from across the country to visit the Sri Darbar Sahib, the holy Golden Temple.
He said that all Indians are aware of the peaceful and liberating message of Ik Onkar (one God) that has been spread far and wide through the majesty of the holy Golden Temple, which provides an open house of worship for all people. More than a lakh devotees per day visit the holy shrine from across the world.
Therefore, sarais for pilgrims are far from the concept of a hotel and the decision to impose 12 percent GST on their activities amounts to an unnecessary financial burden on the Sangat (faithful). It should be immediately rolled back.
He said that collected GST from on sarais by the Central Government cannot be a more important motive than facilitating the spiritual journey of devotees who come to worship at the Holy Golden Temple. This step of the government reminds us of the Mughal era when Aurangzeb imposed jizya tax on pilgrims.
Raising another crucial issue of a drastic fall in groundwater table in Punjab, Chadha demanded an immediate financial package and said that the union government should grant additional water resources to the state.
“Punjab is the state which made the country self-reliant in food production in the sixties and seventies when the whole country was suffering from acute shortage of food grains. Punjab led the Green Revolution and took the initiative to grow paddy which was not a part of our staple diet. The cultivation of paddy has resulted in an alarming fall in ground water that has now reached a dangerous level and needs urgent intervention. Punjab and its farmers stood for the nation and made a huge sacrifices in times of crisis. Today, it is the responsibility of the Union Government to grant aid in the form of a financial package, to enable the state to deal with this crisis, ” Chadha said in his memorandum submitted to the finance minister.