MP wants taxes lifted on those who carry pilgrims

March 19th, 2008 - 6:20 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) A Congress MP from Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday made an emotional plea to the government to withdraw the taxes imposed on the labourers who carry pilgrims to the famous hilltop shrine of Vaishnodevi on their backs. “A hefty tax is imposed on the poor ‘pithuwalas’ (who carry the pilgrims to the hilltop temple in the Himalayas),” Choudhury Lal Singh, Congress MP from Udhampur, told parliament.

“I will go to any extent to solve the plight of about 17,000 labourers, who are being exploited,” Singh said. As deputy speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal asked him to wind up his speech, Singh ran to the well shouting that he wanted a response from the government.

The deputy speaker had to adjourn the Lok Sabha immediately for lunch.

Singh said a tax of Rs.33 is charged from the Pithuwalas, while more tax is imposed on ‘ponywalas’, who carry pilgrims on the horseback, and ‘palkiwalas’ or palanquin carriers.

He said out of Rs.162 charged by the pithuwala, Rs.33 was taken away as tax while the local contractor took away another Rs.9. Similar was the plight of the palkiwalas and the ponywalas.

“Have you heard of poor labourers being imposed tax like this?” he asked.

“The poor labourers are exploited there. They are not even allowed to enter the eateries and they do not have any night shelters.”

“I am asking my own party-led government to withdraw this tax,” he said.

Although Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes was sitting in the house, he did not respond to Singh’s pleas.

The Udhampur MP also said the labourers’ livelihood had also come under threat from helicopter and battery car services.

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