Jammu: J&K National Panthers Party (JKNPP) on Saturday staged a demonstration outside the Raj Bhawan here demanding revocation of the state government's decision to impose service tax on helicopter rides to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
Led by JKNPP Chairman Harsh Dev Singh and State President Balwant Singh Mankotia, hundreds of party workers marched to the Raj Bhawan, raising slogans of 'Vaishno Devi yatrion se tax hatao', 'Helicopter service tax ka order wapis lo, wapis lo' among others.
The JKNPP Chairman demanded the BJP-PDP coalition government to "explain and justify the subsidy and other amenities provided to Haj pilgrims on one hand and imposition of new taxation on Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrims on the other".
Later on, the protesters took out a procession in the old Jammu city which passed through Dhounthily Bazaar, Pacca Danga, Moti Bazaar, Rani Park before culminating at Parade where the leaders addressed the gathering.
Admonishing the BJP for its alleged second fiddle role in the government, Singh said this tax has deeply hurt religious sentiments of Hindus across the world.
He said the Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board which is the regulatory body for conducting the pilgrimage had initiated economical helicopter services especially for the convenience of the ailing and the aged, children, physically challenged and those with medical problems.
Singh lamented that the state government interfered in the sensitive religious issue and imposed the tax which not only offended religious sentiments but also by-passed the authority of the Board headed by the Governor.
The former minister said levying of such tax would have wider ramifications as pilgrims from across the world visit the site to pay their obeisance.
Refuting Finance Minister Haseeb Drabu's statement a few days ago that the proposed tax would be applicable on all rope-ways and cable car services also, Singh stated that the order of September 2 did not make any mention of it.
He further pointed out the order merely states "commercial helicopter services operating within the state" would be covered within the ambit of Service Tax.
Singh explained the order therefore, would have a cascading effect on the helicopter charges for Amarnath Yatra and Machail Yatra.
He added that the proposed helicopter services to Kailash Yatra and Pingla Mata pilgrimage would affect the prevalent rates of cable car services and rope-way services.