As Trinamool Congress leaders sat on a dharna in the city on Tuesday protesting against the notices to Durga Puja committees, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched an attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party for its allegation that she does not allow Durga Pujas in the State.
“Some sitting in Delhi say that Mamata Ji does not allow Durga Pujas in the State. Lakhs of Durga Pujas are held in the State. In every house there is Lakshmi Puja, there is Chatth Puja. We have even a carnival for Durga Puja,” she said, while addressing a gathering at the inauguration of a museum of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Kolkata.
Meanwhile, a press statement issued by Ministry of Finance in New Delhi said “no notice was issued to the Durga Puja Committee Forum by the I-T department during this year.”
According to the ministry, notices to about 30 Durga Puja committees under Section 133(6) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 were issued in December 2018, “calling for details of tax deducted at source on payments made to contractors and event managers”. The statement, however, confirmed that an outreach programme was organised on July 16 this year for the Durga Puja committees at their own request so that they could be educated about the provisions of TDS.
Reacting to the statement, Ms. Banerjee later said: “[The ministry’s] 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 [people]? ,” she said.
“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 Any such taxation should be totally withdrawn and the festival should be allowed to be celebrated with its usual fervour,” she said.
During the day, several senior ministers, MPs and the mayor of Kolkata Municipal Corporation participated in the protest against the IT notices to Durga Puja committees. State’s Law Minister Chandrima Bhattacharya, who participated in the protest, said that Income tax department has no right to serve notices to Durga Puja Committees.