Raising the issue of income tax notices to several Durga Puja committees in the State, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday accused the Centre and the Bharatiya Janata Party of insulting the festival. Speaking to journalists at the State Secretariat, Ms. Banerjee said those who talk about Hinduism before the elections are insulting a religious festival like Durga Puja by asking the organisers to pay income tax. The Income Tax Department had issued notices to about 40 big budget pujas during the last festival, seeking details of their income and expenditure.“Those who believe in the Hindu religion, observe Durga Puja. Many political parties do not have to pay income tax for the funds they spend during the elections. Then why would the puja committees have to pay tax? I condemn this attitude,” she said.Ms Banerjee’s remarks, just before the onset of the festival season, assumes significance as the BJP is likely to associate with several community Durga Pujas this year. Durga Pujas in West Bengal also serve as a prominent means of reaching out to large number of people. ‘Subscription by people’The Chief Minister said that community Durga Pujas are held on subscription paid by people, who pay taxes and therefore the question of taxing puja funds does not arise. “It is an insult to the pujas,” she said. Last year, West Bengal government paid an honorarium of ₹10,000 to the community Durga Puja organisers, a decision that was challenged in thee Calcutta High Court.
Roger Federer tops the bill at the French Open on opening Sunday when he makes his long-awaited return to the Parisian clay with a first-round match against Italian Lorenzo Sonego.The 37-year-old Swiss, whose one Roland Garros title came 10 years ago, has been absent from the claycourt Grand Slam since 2015 and says he has missed it.”I’m very happy to be back, maybe a tiny bit more because when I have missed the last three editions, and when you miss something in life, you’re happy to be back there again.”The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will play in the third match on the revamped Court Philippe Chatrier, returns as the third seed behind world number one Novak Djokovic and 11-times champion Rafael Nadal, neither of whom are in action on Sunday.The Swiss has played down his chances of winning the title, although 73rd-ranked Sonego, making his main draw debut at Roland Garros having lost in qualifying last year, should not cause him undue alarm as he reaquaints himself with his surroundings.”Centre court looks very different. There has been a lot of upgrades and investments made,” Federer said.”But I feel it is still the old Roland Garros, it’s kept its flair and everything.”A connoisseur of style, Federer will no doubt be interested to see the brand new Court Simonne Mathieu — set in the picturesque Serres d’Auteuil botanical gardens and flanked by greenhouses containing rare and exotic plants.Muguruza eyes return to formFormer French Open champion Garbine Muguruza will hope the beautiful setting will help her recover some form as the 19th seed christens the court against American Taylor Townsend.advertisementWomen’s fifth seed Angelique Kerber will hope the ankle injury that has ruined her preparation will not be factor as she opens proceedings on Chatrier against Anastasia Potapova.Germany’s Kerber is seeking to win the only Grand Slam to elude her and is one of several women that could take over as world number one at the end of the French Open.Another one, second seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova, closes play on Chatrier against American Madison Brengle.Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, one of the young brigade being tipped as a title contender, will also get his tournament started when he takes on Germany’s Maximilian Marterer.Two Grand Slam champions will be on show on Court Suzanne Lenglen. Marin Cilic plays Italian Thomas Fabbiano while later last year’s runner-up Sloane Stephens faces Misaki Doi.Also Read | French Open 2019: Want to play my best tennis here, says Novak DjokovicAlso Read | Unfamiliar, but nice: Simona Halep back to defend French Open titleAlso See: