The move follows the levying of service tax on Vaishno Devi pilgrims going to the shrine by chopper. It seems to be a major setback for BJP, the ruling alliance partner in PDP-led coalition government, as the party had assured the Jammu people that the “arbitrary order” would be rolled back soon following massive public outrage.
“At present, no such proposal to roll back the tax is under consideration with the government. The tax is applicable to all commercial helicopter services operating within the state,” said Minister for Finance Haseeb A Drabu while replying to a question of BJP MLA Rajiv Jasrotia in the Legislative Assembly at Srinagar.
The MLA had asked whether the service tax would be made applicable to the helicopter services to Amarnath Yatra.
On September 2 last year, the state Finance Department had issued a notification wherein it had brought commercial helicopter services operating in the state within the ambit of service tax at the uniform rate of 12.60 per cent.
“I raised the issue in the Assembly and told the Finance Minister that it was a matter of religious faith. I requested that this arbitrary order needs to be rolled back immediately because it had been generating ‘peanuts’ for the state government,” Jasrotia told The Tribune over phone from Srinagar.
He said the Finance Minister had assured them that “necessary action” would be taken shortly.
This year’s 48-day Amarnath yatra would commence simultaneously on both the routes from July 2 and culminate on Raksha Bandhan on August 18.
Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has made arrangements with Pawan Hans Limited and Global Vectra Helicorp Limited for providing helicopter services on the Neelgrath (Baltal)-Panjtarni-Neelgrath (Baltal) sector and Himalayan Heli Services Private Limited for chopper services on the Pahalgam-Panjtarni-Pahalgam sector.
Last year in September, a massive controversy erupted after the decision of the state government to impose service tax on helicopter service for Vaishno Devi pilgrims. The central leadership of BJP had also requested the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed that the new tax should be reviewed.