Mamata calls for tax exemption for Durga Puja organisers

Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday demanded that the Centre should exempt Durga Puja organisers from paying income tax. Banerjee's demand assumes significance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has recently asked the state BJP leadership to develop extensive public relations through Durga Puja.

"Political parties spend money during elections and some of the parties get exemption of income tax under corporate fund. Durga Puja is a social function and not a commercial venture, so I feel that it should not come under the ambit of income tax," Banerjee said, in response to a poser on the I-T department seeking income tax details from Forum for Durgotsav, which is an umbrella body of more than 400 Durga Puja organisers in the city.

Banerjee maintained that Durga Puja is held by collecting subscriptions from common people and from funds procured through advertisements of various sponsors. "Seeking income tax details is condemnable and an insult to the Durga Puja committees," she added.

She asserted that Durga Puja is a prime source of employment generation in the state. "The decorators, the theme makers and the people who build pandals all make their living through Durga Puja, which is held for four days," Banerjee added.

According to the Chief Minister, the way Durga Puja is celebrated in the city is a marvel for people across the world.

"People from not only different parts of the country but also from around the world turn up in the city and soak in the festive fervour. The Durga Puja carnival attracts a large number of foreigners," she said.

Banerjee also lashed out at the BJP for using the I-T department as a tool to harass the Durga Puja committees. "Before the elections they try to create divisions along religious lines and after polls are over, the I-T department summons the puja committees. Festivals are a part of our religious custom and every single community, be it Hindus, Muslims or Christians, celebrate their festivals here," she said.

Saswata Bose, general secretary of Forum for Durgotsav, welcomed the point made by the Chief Minister. "The Durga Puja is not a profitable venture and apart from a handful of so called big puja organizers, it is difficult to furnish income tax details. I had visited the I-T department a few days ago and have informed them of the difficulty," Bose added.

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