Karnataka move to tax temples earning above Rs 1 crore sparks row

1 month ago 86

BENGALURU: Congress-governed Karnataka has passed a bill to rejig taxes on state-owned temples, requiring those with


of over Rs 1 crore to contribute 10%, and stoked a controversy.
Under the Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowment (Amendment) Bill, passed by the assembly late Wednesday, 5% is to be paid by shrines with revenues of Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore.

The collections flow into a common state pool managed by a panel, the Dharmik Parishad. The tax/contribution rates were almost similar earlier, but what appears to have ignited the


is the amendment specifically mentions a category of Rs 1-crore plus earnings. This has led to BJP's allegations that the Siddaramaiah-led govt was targeting rich temples and trying to divert their "taxes" to other religious institutions.

K’taka row over revision in tax matrix on temple earnings.

Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah defended the bill, saying the taxes will be deposited into Dharmik Parishad - which deals only with Hindu shrines. He argued that the money will be spent on welfare of priests, upgrading pilgrims' facilities and ramping up infrastructure of temples with meagre earnings. "It won't be utilised for non-Hindu institutions," the chief minister asserted.
For perspective, Karnataka has over 1.5 lakh temples. Of them, the state's muzrai (shrine) department is the custodian of 36,000 temples and classifies them under three categories based on income - 205 'A' category temples with more than Rs 25 lakh a year; 193 'B' category temples with Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh and less than Rs 25 lakh a year; and 30,000 'C' category temples with less than Rs 5 lakh yearly income.

Likening it to Jaziya, BJP called the amendment "a new low of appeasement politics" by Congress. Historically, Jaziya was a tax paid by non-Muslims to Muslim rulers. It was imposed in India by Qutb-ud-din Aibak. Akbar abolished it in 16th century. Aurangzeb reinstated in the 17th.
Hitting out at Rahul Gandhi, Union minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar said when you think "Rahul's Congress cannot fall any lower, along comes an example of them falling even lower".
Chandrasekhar described CM Siddaramaiah and deputy chief minister DK Shivakumar as "Rahul's handpicked leaders" who have ensured through the new law "that 10% donations received by Hindu temples every year will be taken away by the govt without assigning any reason or cause". He alleged that money given by Hindu devotees is "in a sense being looted by the govt of Karnataka to fund various requirements for Congress".
Siddaramaiah dismissed the allegations as a ploy by BJP to "mislead and polarise the people along communal lines" for political leverage ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. He stressed that ever since the law's implementation in 2003, the pool of temple funds has been utilised exclusively for Hindus. This utilization pattern, he affirmed, will continue in the future, with no diversion for "non-Hindu" purposes.