KL NEWS NETWORK
To firm up the state resources, J&K government has ordered levying service tax on all commercial helicopter services operating within the state. This order will make commercial flights through choppers costlier by 12.5%.
The decision, however, has generated some heated debate, especially in ultra-right camp, as some of them see the move as “communal”. Most of them have invoked the “Jaziya”, to describe the move. Jaziya is a tax that theocratic Muslim states impose on minorities for protection.
While linking the tax with the helicopter services to the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine, many voices have expressed concern that the move will affect the pilgrim pockets. “The service tax to be levied by the government will add Rs 130 more to the cost of the ticket,” they said.
It is interesting to mention here that the basic ticket cost for flying a pilgrim from Katra to the cave is around Rs 700 and the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board is imposing Rs 300 per ticket in the name of landing fees. The same practice is in vogue on the two aerial routes to Amarnath Shrine from Pahalgam and Baltal where Amarnath Shrine Board is imposing additional costs to add a pie to its kitty.
But state Finance Minister, Dr Haseeb A Drabu, rebuffed the allegations that the service tax is community specific. He said tax is not applicable on any particular community or on a specific route. “There is no question of charging tax on a particular route,” Dr Drabu said. He said that the similar tax is being imposed on chopper services ferrying tourists to exotic spots like Gulmarg and Pahalgam. “The said tax is also being charged on Cable car services, some of which carry pilgrims to Muslim shrines like Makhdoom Sahib,” he added.