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Tourist tax plan on hold

Gaya, Feb. 15: The Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat’s proposal to impose a “tourist tax” of one dollar on foreigners visiting the town is unlikely to happen this tourist season.

Though the civic body can impose tax on the international visitors to raise funds for its “internal resource”, its proposal has not got a nod from the state government. The urban development department has returned the proposal to the nagar panchayat, senior officials in the civic body said today.

With the elections to the civic bodies, including the Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat, scheduled in the middle of May, the model code of conduct will come into effect in the last week of March. Once the code of conduct is in place, the proposal of collecting tourist taxes cannot be implemented. Besides, Bodhgaya will continue to receive tourists till the end of February. By the time the next tourist season begins, the Bodhgaya civic body will have a new board, which will take the final decision on whether to impose the tax or not.

The incumbent executive officer of the nagar panchayat, Sushil Kumar Mishra, told The Telegraph today the proposal of “tourist tax” was sent for an approval to the state urban development department in September 2011 before the beginning of the tourist season. “The nagar panchayat can raise funds, but it is mandatory for the civic body to get a nod from the department concerned before imposing any new tax. As the urban development department did not give its nod to our proposal, the tourist tax could not be imposed during the ongoing tourist season,” he added.

Despite repeated attempts, urban development officials could not be contacted.

Bodhgaya Nagar Panchayat chairperson Preeti Singh told The Telegraph that the proposal to collect one dollar as “tourist tax” from visitors coming to Bodhgaya was passed at a meeting of the civic body. She added that the proposal was on the lines of “service fee” being realised by the Lodging House Committee (LHC) from devotees reaching Gaya for “pind daan” — a ritual performed by the Hindus for the salvation of their departed ancestors — at Vishnupad temple. The LHC collects Rs 250 from buses, Rs 100 from mini-buses and Rs 50 from light vehicles carrying devotees to Bodhgaya as service fee. Besides, Gayapal pandas have to pay Re 1 each to LHC to get a licence to accommodate devotees in their respective houses during the tourists’ stay in the town for the “pind daan” ritual.

Railways, too, imposes a surcharge of Rs 3 to Rs 15 on passenger tickets of various categories purchased in Gaya for different stations during the 17-day pitripaksh period.