The term ‘langar’ is used in Sikhism for the community kitchens run by the Gurdwaras, they provide free vegetarian food to all the visitors without any distinction of caste, religion, economic status or ethnicity. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism adopted the langar concept which is still being followed by the Sikh institutions throughout the world. The Golden Temple in Amritsar alone provides free food to 55,000 to 60,000 visitors daily. There are countless other major and minor langars which provides food for free in India. The organizations involved in running these langars were facing problems because of the increased rates of raw materials due to the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
These langars are important for the poor people who rely on them for their daily bread, the charitable work being done by these institutions over the years is commendable. Implementation of the GST had a negative impact on the bodies involved in the running of these langars. The langars do not charge anything for the food they provide and hence the tax burden had created more problems for them. These charitable organizations had to pay taxes for doing charitable work. The Central Government has finally taken notice of the long standing demands by the organizations to provide them relief from paying taxes.
The President of India gave his assent to the Special Financial Assistance for Sewa Bhoj Yojana following which the order has been issued by the central government on Friday, to provide special financial assistance to all religious bodies which serve free langars to devotees and needy. The Sewa Bhoj Yojana bill has an outlay of Rs 350 crores and has been launched for two years, between 2018-19 to 2019-20. The langar organizations will still have to pay the Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) and Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) on the purchase of raw materials but then they will be reimbursed completely by the government. Sugar, ghee, dry fruits, tea and LPG are some of the items on which the langars had to pay heavy taxes. The Golden Temple in Amritsar alone had to pay upwards of over Rs 2 crores in GST on langar items from the date of its implementation till today.
This is a welcome move by the central government, a step forward in helping the needy people in the country. It is not even a big deal for the government to forego tax amount from the langar organizations which provide food to the needy. The government exchequer is not going to be affected from this move either, in fact would send a good message to the Sikh and other communities as well. This welcome move by the government should be praised and is a sign that this really is a people’s government which keeps in mind the need and demands of its people. Langars can now keep on working without worrying about the burden of added expenses. This will enable them to cater to a larger population of the society and might even raise the popularity of the present government ahead of 2019 throughout India.