Blinkered View

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Published: September 9, 2015 12:17:33 AM

In likening service tax on Vaishno Devi chopper service to jiziya, Congress bares its communal side

No matter how you bend it, a 12.5% service tax on the chopper-drop available to pilgrims at the Vaishno
Devi shrine can’t be thought of as jiziya, the levy imposed by an Islamic state on its permanent non-Muslim residents. But Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi is convinced otherwise, accusing the PDP-BJP government of Jammu & Kashmir, where the shrine is located, of trying to “control the number of pilgrims”. While it may mean a fistful of political points for Singhvi and his party—the BJP has capitulated and said there will be no tax—the stand is just malicious and damaging as it flares communal sentiments.

It is clear that there is no faith-based angle to the tax, given it applies to just the few who can afford the chopper ride. The bulk of the pilgrims trek up the Trikuta hill—the shrine is housed on its peak—or ride on the back of mules or porters or are taken in palanquins, and so far, neither the mule rides nor the palanquin rides attract a tax. All the Congress has done is give an unwarranted communal taint to the matter and, in the process, thwart a legitimate effort to increase government revenue

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