From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Tax exemption in India threatened

Date 01 Oct 1998 11:05:20

Churches protest against finance minister's plan

GENEVA, 28 September 1998 (lwi) - A proposal by the Indian finance minister
to eliminate the tax exemption accorded to educational and medical
institutions has prompted a call to opposition from the National Council of
Churches in India (NCCI) and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India

The appeal is signed by NCCI president, Dr Kunchala Rajaratnam, a former
advisor to the council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and by CBCI
president, Archbishop Alan de Lastic. It calls upon all educational and
medical institutions to make representations to the government for the
prompt withdrawal of the new proposal.

The finance minister has justified the proposal by claiming that abuses
have taken place "compelling such institutions to come under a discipline".
According to the joint appeal, safeguards to prevent abuses already exist.
The proposed "discipline" comprises a most disquieting latitude for
subjectivity and bias on the part of the Income Tax Department in
monitoring compliance with the tax code. Such latitude, the appeal claims,
could easily result in "widespread harassment" and is deemed "highly
dangerous for the smooth functioning of the education and medical
institutions", institutions run mostly by churches and church-affiliated

The educational exemption goes back to 1922, the medical exemption to 1970.
According to an earlier press release from the NCCI, the tax exemption
withdrawal is set within the larger context of continuing campaigns by
Hindu religious fundamentalists to advance their own agenda, an agenda
which threatens the secular basis of the Indian state.

The press release stresses that India has many pressing concerns from which
time, energy and money are being diverted by such campaigns. These
concerns, besides the fundamental question of the secularism of the state,
include India's nuclear weapons development and the appalling extent of
poverty and unemployment throughout the country.

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Lutheran World Information
Editorial Assistant: Janet Bond-Nash

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