Karnataka govt amends law to collect 10% tax from temples, BJP calls them anti-Hindu

Before the amendment, 10% of the total income was collected from temples whose annual income exceeded Rs 10 lakh and would go into a common pool. .
Karnataka govt amends law to collect 10% tax from temples, BJP calls them anti-Hindu
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The Karnataka government’s bill which mandates the government to collect tax from Hindu temples has caused a huge political furore in the state. The opposition BJP has accused the Siddaramaiah government of stealing wealth from rich temples in the state. The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (Amendment) Bill, 2024 was passed in the Assembly on Wednesday, February 21. BJP has now intensified its opposition ahead of the Bill being tabled in the Legislative Council, where coalition partner BJP and JD(S) hold sway. 

The amendment that the government brought allows the government to collect 10 percent tax from temples that have revenues more than ₹1 crore and 5 percent from those with revenues ranging between ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore. Leader of opposition R Ashoka accused Chief Minister Siddaramaiah of “stealing from temple collection boxes” and alleging that the government was aiming to gain a 10% commission from temple revenues. 

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah said the allegations appear to be misrepresented for political gain. “There has always been a mandate to create a common pool since the enactment of the Act in 1997. The common pool is administered solely for religious purposes connected with the Hindu religion. The Common Pool Fund has been utilized only for the religious purposes of Hindu institutions since the Act came into force in 2003, and it will continue to be used for the same purposes in the future,” he wrote on X.

So what are the proposed amendments? 

Around 35,000 temples fall under the jurisdiction of the Muzrai department. Among these 205 temples are classified as Group A as their annual incomes exceed Rs 25 lakh. Group B comprises 193 temples with incomes ranging from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 25 lakh per year. The majority of temples, approximately 34,000 temples belong to Group C, income below Rs 5 lakh annually. 

Till now, Group A temples contributed 10% of revenue, Group B temples contributed 5%, and Group C temples made no contributions.

With the proposed amendment, temples with incomes above Rs 1 crore: These temples will now have to contribute 10% of their revenue to the Common Pool Fund.

Temples generating between Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1 crore revenue: They are required to chip in five per cent to the fund.

Temples with incomes below Rs 10 lakh: These temples will not have to contribute to the fund.

Muzrai Minister Ramalinga Reddy, who introduced the amendments said that the money would be used for providing various amenities to temples, offering insurance coverage and death relief to temple priests and granting scholarships to approximately 40,000 children of priest families. He said, “the funds will be managed by Rajya Dharmika Parishad and will primarily be allocated to provide aid to Group C temples and provide welfare measures to priests and their families at these temples.”

The Bill was passed with minimal opposition in the Assembly on Wednesday. But later in the evening, BJP state president BY Vijayendra took to Twitter accusing the Congress government of targeting revenue of Hindu temples to “fill government coffers”. “The government will collect 10% of the income from temples earning over Rs 1 crore, this is nothing but poverty. The offering dedicated by the devotees for the knowledge of God and the development of the temple should be allocated for the renovation of the temple and for the convenience of devotees,” he said. 

In response, Ramalinga Reddy said that the provision wasn’t new but has existed since 2001 but wasn’t implemented. “Did your BJP government neglect its responsibilities between 2008 and 2013 and 2019-2023? Looks like your government turned a blind eye to the revenues of Hindu temples, despite the existence of the amendment since 2001,” he said. 

The previous BJP government led by CM Basavaraj Bommai wanted to introduce a law to remove Hindu temples from state control.

Read: Karnataka govt wants to ‘free temples’. But from what exactly? 

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