Pardeep Singh Bali
In an embarrassment to the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), the Mehbooba led state government made it clear that it has no proposal to withdraw the tax imposed on the helicopter service from Katra to Vaishno Devi shrine.
“It is the fact that the Finance department vide notification SRO 297 dated 2 September 2015 imposed sales tax on services on commercial helicopter services operating within the state,” official order reads, adding, “at present the government has no such proposal for withdrawal of the said tax.”
Soon after the imposition of this tax, tension gripped the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), with high command in New Delhi conveying to the Jammu and Kashmir leadership that this should be reversed.
“Soon after opposition criticized the imposition of tax, terming it Jaziya Tax, BJP’s national spokesperson-Ram Madhav stepped in to have a tax imposed, on helicopter rides to the famous Vaishno Devi shrine, to be withdrawn,” sources close to the development stated.
The high command in New Delhi contacted Deputy CM Nirmal Singh, asking him to speak to the chief minister in this regard and the order should be withdrawn immediately.
“The DyCM talked to the chief minister in this regard and the people of the state were assured that the tax will be soon withdrawn,” said sources, “but the government has deflated promises of the BJP.”
The BJP supported J&K government led by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s had announced 12.5 per cent tax on sale of tickets for commercial helicopter services in the state. The move was seen as aimed at fetching substantial revenue from chopper services to ferry pilgrims to the Vaishno Devi and Amarnath shrines.
Pertinently the new levy a chopper trip from Katra near Jammu to the cave shrine in the Trikuta Hills and back would cost Rs. 2,340 instead of Rs. 2,078.
The state BJP leadership had raised hue and cry over the imposition of the tax and termed it interference with the religion, but even after more than 10 months, the BJP leadership failed miserably to convince government for the withdrawal of the tax.
Meanwhile, people in Jammu region accuse the BJP leadership of succumbing before Kashmir centric party, PDP.
“At the same time, there was Beef ban issue that marred the state, but due to strong voice from the Kashmir, the issue was put in back burner, with chief minister suggesting the judiciary to let the things as it happened to be,” observers suggest, “the beef ban was made oblivion, while as tax on vaishno devi chopper ride remained as a part of government policy.”