Telangana: Oh God! Save them from taxes
Civic bodies slapping 15% tax on all sevas at temples
Hyderabad: It's not just petrol and gas, even sevas like Abhishekam and other pujas are becoming out of reach of the common man in Telangana.
The main reason is that the State Government has levied taxes on the income of temples. It has asked the gram panchayats and municipalities to collect 15 per cent tax. This has put an additional burden on the temples.
According to sources, temples where such tax is being levied are Sri Kodanda Rama Swamy temple in Jangaon district and Sri Rajarajeshwari temple in Vemulawada.
In Jangaon, authorities used to lease out land for 'Angadi' (cattle market) and used to earn about Rs 6 lakh revenue. After introducing an engineering procurement and construction system the temple is now earning Rs 1 crore. This made the gram panchayat authorities to levy a tax of 15 per cent.
Sources said that the regional joint commissioner of the Endowments department had decreased the licence fee from 15 per cent to 5 per cent. But following a representation by TRS MLA T Rajaiah, the commissioner restored it to 15 per cent.
According to the temple authorities, the local bodies which collect taxes from the temples do not bother to develop the areas near the temple. They don't even lay a road near the temple.
Following this, Sri Rajarajeshwara Swamy temple in Vemulawada hiked the seva charges by 40 per cent inviting the wrath of devotees. The rate for Gharbhalaya Abhishekam has been increased from Rs 600 to Rs 1,000. For Satyanarayana Vratham the charges have been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 600. For Anna puja and Abhishekham in Someswaralayam prices were increased from Rs 200 to Rs 500 per ticket.
The temple authorities say that the enhancement of prices was necessary because the municipal authorities have been insisting on payment of taxes. Temple Executive Officer Ramakrishna said, "The Municipal Corporation asked us to deposit Rs 7 crore, which is due. They are levying taxes on the rooms of dharamshalas which the temple gives on nominal rent. We are unable to meet our own expenses thanks to the losses to the tune of over Rs 50 crore because of Covid."
Devalaya Rakshana Samithi president K Sandeep Kumar said the government should withdraw this order and stop interfering in the affairs of the temples. Till then, he said, instead of increasing rates, temple authorities should increase Abhishekam slots and encourage more devotees to take part in the sevas which can generate more income.