The Bihar State Board of Religious Trust (BSBRT) has run a special drive making registration compulsory for temples in addition to levying a tax of four percent on temples that are not private. This decision has upset devotees.
BSBRT tax on Hindu temples
A report by OpIndia on the development states:
The temples constructed by private individuals on private land which are open for common people are also included in this order. All such temples will have to be registered with BSBRT which has started a special drive for the identification and registration of such temples. BSBRT has asked collectors of all districts of Bihar to identify all such temples which are not registered.
BSBRT has been collecting taxes from temples from 1950 onwards but controversy erupted afresh after smaller and private temples were included in the tax ambit.
Member of BSBRT Mahant Vijay Shankar Giri said that all such private temples where are open for common people will come under the purview of tax. BSBRT said that it was a service charge, not a tax.
“But people are hardly aware that BSBRT had brought an amendment in 2006 to define the private temple and the public temple. At that time it was clarified that if a private temple is opened for darshan for all then it will no more be treated as a private temple. Earlier, the maximum tax on the total income of the temple excluding daily expenditure was 5%. But BSBRT has fixed a universal slab of 4%,” one of the members of the temple management committee of a prominent temple of Patna told OpIndia…
…As the decision has sparked protest, Bihar Land Reform and Revenue Minister Ramsurat Rai said some people were trying to create confusion. He said that BSBRT, Law Department, and Land Revenue Department had held a meeting for the better management of religious places in Bihar.
“Temple management in Bihar is very poor and it has been seen that properties donated by our forefathers for temples are being sold by caretakers. So we want to strengthen the law to protect temples’ properties so that same is utilised for the maintenance of the temple,” the minister said. He said that no decision was taken on the imposition of tax.
The Bihar Hindu Religious Trust Act of 1950 provides for taxing the income of a temple. Amendments made to the Act in 2006 state that temples having donation boxes as well as seeking donations through coupons would be under the tax ambit. 4600 temples across Bihar that are run by a trust or temple attendant are registered with the BSBRT as of date.
Small temples particularly in villages depend on public donations as Darbhanga resident Madan Kumar Jha Madhup who is involved in the management activities of one such temple opined “Now the Nitish Kumar government wants small temples to pay taxes. Even to replace a fused bulb and to buy a broom we are dependent on donations”.
Hindus have reacted angrily and equated the levy with Jizya while adding that on the one hand Hindus are taxed while on the other minorities are given freebies. “At most of these temples, priests offer their service for free. Call it a service charge but still, this is a tax,” one Deepak Lohia has been quoted as saying.
It is precisely for this that for a long time now the Hindu society has been demanding that Hindu temples be freed from the clutches of the secular government.