Spend Offerings On TempleDevelopment
Himachal This Week, Hamirpur
The Union Finance Ministry in its new guidelines has clearly mentioned either to spend offerings of the temples and religious institutes on developmental works or pay income tax. Under the new guidelines of the ministry, offerings at temples and religious institutes also fall under the ambit of income tax. However the relief in tax can be availed only if 85% of offerings of the temples will be spent on developmental works, otherwise tax will be levied on offerings as per rules.
Notably Baba Balak Nath temple in Deotsidh receives an offering of about Rs. 25 crore annually. Out of it, Rs. 12 crore is spent on salaries of employees and teachers of educational institutes. Besides this, salary of temple employees is also dependent on offerings. Expenditure of trust and salaries of employees in other temples of the state are also dependent on offerings. This is the reason that there is negligible development in temples and pilgrims visiting different temples of the state complain of lack of facilities.
Chintpurni Temple received maximum offering in the state. But nothing more than renovation work in the name of development is achieved here. Brajeshwari Temple in Kangra, Naina Devi Temple in Bilaspur and Baba Balak Nath Temple in Deotsidh also join the list. Barring Chamunda Devi Temple in Kangra district, development work is hardly visible in any of the temple premises in the state. This is the reason why the offerings amount always pained pilgrims.
Deotsidh Temple administration has always been shrouded in controversies regrading spending of offerings in other works than using it for development projects. Offerings are being showered on nearby marriages out of temple treasury.
A new custom of distributing grains and cereals has also been adopted. All what is happening is because of the prevailing political hegemony. Income Tax Department has warned temple administration time and again and now it has decided to take strict actions.
The department has strictly directed every shrine administration to invest offerings in development projects. All shrines now have to present their financial report to the department. After this measure, one can expect the system to become more transparent and accountable than before.