Millennium Post

This is an attack on our culture and our Durga Puja festival, says Mamata

KOLKATA: As Bengal's revered Durga Puja is caught up in a political imbroglio, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday alleged distortion of facts in regard to the Income Tax Department's notice to Durga Puja committees.

Reacting sharply to a press release issued by the Central Board of Direct Taxation (CBDT) that claimed to clear air on notices to the Puja committees for tax, more commonly known as 'Puja Jijia Tax', Banerjee wrote on Facebook: "The press release is a sheer distortion of facts with an aim to create confusion in the minds of local people and Puja committees and perpetrate mental tension."

"This is also an attack on our culture and on our Durga Puja festival. I do not know whether this is being done knowingly or unknowingly, but it is certainly of bad taste, especially when people of all religions, caste, creed participate in our Durga Puja, which is just like a national festival. Any such taxation should be totally withdrawn and the festival should be allowed to be celebrated with its usual fervour." She further added: "In fact, Income Tax authorities sent notices to Puja Committees last year regarding event management including 'Dhaki', 'Purohit', small and village artisans engaged in arts and crafts working in pandals for collecting tax from them through Puja committees by way of TDS, which is as good as 'Terrible Disaster Scheme'. This is, undoubtedly a huge burden on them. CBDT clarification that no notices have been issued for this year makes little sense. It is only obvious that for Pujas held this year, notices will only be issued next year, which is as per their scheme of tax assessment. So, the clarification itself proves that the imposition of tax very much stands. Then, why misleading?"

Several party leaders echoed the Chief Minister's thoughts as they took part in a dharna organised by the Trinamool Banga Janani Bahini at Raja Subodh Mullick Square to protest against the notices.

"The Income Tax department has no right to send notices to the community Puja organisers asking them to furnish details of their income," Trinamool Mahila Congress president Chandrima Bhattacharya said on Tuesday. Bhattacharya, a lawyer well-versed in Income Tax laws, said the department has no authority to send the notices as the community Puja organisers are not profit-making bodies. Meanwhile, Mayor Firhad Hakim said TMC will continue to protest against the "arbitrary decision of the Income Tax department until it withdraws the notice."

TMC supporters, sympathisers and representatives of different Puja committees also took part in the protest that was held from 10 am to 6 pm.

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