IT dept serves notice to puja committees, Mamata tells clubs not to appear before officials

Mamata Banerjee offers floral tribute to Swami Vivekananda on the eve of his birth anniversary at an event in Babughat on Friday. (Express photo/Partha Paul)

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday slammed the Centre for using the Income Tax (I-T) department to probe Durga Puja committees in Kolkata. She also called on the committees to stand united and not appear before I-T officials.

Mamata also said the move allotting 10 per cent reservation in government jobs and higher education for economically-weaker upper castes would "deprive the poor".

Addressing a public meeting at Barasat in North 24 Parganas, Mamata said, "In West Bengal, people of all castes, creeds and religious sects celebrate Durga Puja. Now, the Left has allied with BJP. They are sending notices to Durga Puja committees and asking for their expenditure details as they need to pay income tax. Do people know the details of how much money you (the Centre) have looted during demonetisation? How much money has been deposited as income tax?"

Her remarks came days after the Income Tax department served notices to at least 40 major Durga puja committees, asking them to file TDS. Some of these committees met I-T officials in Kolkata on Friday after receiving summons.

"Why should income tax be paid… There are many trusts and temples across India. Will they pay income tax? The organisers of the Durga Puja do not do it for their profit. How much income tax is being collected from the real thieves? The real hoodlums are all staying in foreign countries while are clubs are being harassed for income tax," she said.

"Our state government has given Rs 10,000 to clubs for community development. You are trying to get money from these clubs. If you are trying to stop Durga Pujas, we will not keep quiet. I will urge all clubs to unite and protest against this dictum. I will ask them not to appear before Income Tax department," the chief minister said.

On the Centre's quota bill, Mamata said, "The Centre has recently announced 10 per cent reservation. The income ceiling is Rs 8 lakh per annum. How many people come under this category? Those coming from humble backgrounds, those belonging to farmer or labourer families, the young generation will be deprived. The poor will be neglected. Two crore people have lost their jobs in 2018. In Bengal we have reduced unemployment by 40 per cent. We want our young generation to get employment."

Earlier, while Trinamool Congress MPs had expressed reservations with some aspects of the Centre's initiative, they had voted in favour of the quota bill in both Houses of Parliament.