Goods and services tax (GST) came into effect on 1st July 2017 under One Hundred Twenty-Second Amendment Bill of the Constitution of India. It replaced all the other taxes and combined all the taxes together to create a single central and state tax.
Langar is a Sikhism culture where community kitchen in Gurudwaras serves a free meal to all the visitors without any barrier of caste, creed, religion, economic status and ethnicity. People will be served vegetarian food and they all will sit on the floor together to eat. Centre enforced GST on such noble act as well.
On 31st May 2018, BJP Government came up with a new Scheme, “Seva Bhoj Yojana” where the Union Minister for Food Processing Mr Harsimrat Kaur Badal stated that Central Government will refund the tax under this new scheme. There was no VAT on the purchase of Langar food, prior to GST. Harsimrat Badal wrote the central in the year 2017 to exempt Langar Seva from GST slab. Even Shiromani Akali Dal and Shiromani Gurudwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) were demanding the GST exemption for Langar. The Scheme has been passed with an outlay of around 325 Crore for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Financial Years by providing financial assistance to the Charitable Institutions. Centre has stated that CGST and the Central Government’s share of integrated GST will be repaid for “Specific Items” to be used in Langar. Specific Items- Sugar, Ghee, LPG for Sri Guru Ramdas Langar of Golden Temple.
The sikh community has welcomed the decision of CGST reimbursement as it was an extra financial burden and now the saved money can be spent on some other community services. Harsimrat Kaur Badal along with her husband Sukhbir Singh Badal who is President of Shiromani Akali Dal thanked Prime Minister Mr Narendra Modi for this scheme. Mr Badal stated that this scheme shows the commitment of his party towards the entire Sikh Community and their faiths.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh stated this case as “Better late than never”. Punjab had waived of SGST on Langar and Prasad in March 2018 to lessen the burden on Golden Temple and other Sikh and Hindu Shrines. Amritsar Lok Sabha MP Mr Gurjit Singh Aujla credited CM of Punjab for his step of waving off CGST on Langar. SGPC now demands from Central government to refund the amount paid by SGPC towards the purchase of items for Langar every year and serving around seventy to eighty thousands pilgrims every day. The value they quoted for this is around 70 crores.
Congress is not leaving any stone unturned to attack BJP. With this scheme coming into the picture, Congress took the credits and stated that as the initial step of waving off the SGCT was taken by Congress that has made this scheme possible. With BJP losing its Midas’s touch in every Election, is this a new way to convince public into gaining votes for 2019 Lok Sabha Election? Well, whatever!! As a citizen, we just know that this came as a big relief for the Gurudwaras.