SRINAGAR: President Jammu and Kashmir Association of Haj and Umrah Companies, (JKHUAC) Feroz Ahmad Sheikh on Monday said application of service tax under Goods and Services Tax (GST) on Haj and Umrah Travel and Trade has given a serious blow to the trade. He was addressing a press conference here in Srinagar after being elected as the new president of the association.
He said that after state government accepted GST in the region, private Haj and Umrah companies have to charge 5 percent extra as a service tax from the pilgrims. “Our minimum package starts from 3.5 lakh rupees and now the pilgrims have to pay 15 to 20 thousand rupees extra which becomes extra burden on them,” he said.
He said that pilgrims who prefer to go on Haj or Umrah through private operators are troubled by the implementation of GST despite the fact private companies do not provide any services in the state but abroad. “We don’t get subsidy or facility from the government but pilgrims still have to pay tax that too when services are being provided in Saudi Arabia. We only purchase tickets from here and the rest of the services are provided outside the country,” Sheikh said.
He said government should not charge tax on performing Haj. “We don’t feel comfortable while charging tax on going for Haj,” Sheikh said while appealing the government to exempt Haj from the tax.
“Hajj and Umrah pilgrimage has a great significance, religious sanctity for the community. All government institutions should have proper regard for the sentiments of the society and give proper respect to Haj and Umrah travel.”
He said that JKHUAC has already approached government regarding the exemption of the service tax under GST for Haj and Umrah travel. “We request the government to roll back the GST so that the tax should not become a burden on the pilgrims,” he said.
Apart from having issues on implementation on GST Sheikh said despite Srinagar airport being made an international airport, no international flights were being operated from Srinagar. “JKHUAC strongly recommends that direct flights for Jeddah should be operated from here next Umrah season which begins from November this year because pilgrims face many difficulties at Delhi airport.”