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.
The Surfrider Foundation, the largest non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to protecting the world’s ocean, waves and beaches, unveils a new public service announcement today with Academy Award winning actress, screenwriter and director, Helen Hunt.Video: Helen Hunt for Clean WaterHunt has a very personal connection to the ocean and our coasts. This is what inspired her to write, produce and star in her newest film, “Ride,” where she is thrust into a sea of change and self-discovery, finding solace in surfing. She aims to increase awareness about the importance of protecting the nation’s waters in a new public service announcement for the Surfrider Foundation. The film premiered in theaters and will be available for download on May 1. A portion of ticket sales from “Ride” will go to the Foundation. View the movie trailer, purchase tickets or download the movie at Surfrider.org/RIDE.“My father has been surfing in Santa Monica all of his life. I grew up playing in that ocean and now my daughter plays in that same water,” says Helen Hunt. “I count on the Surfrider Foundation to make sure that the water is clean and safe for her and future generations.”Every year, there are more than 20,000 beach closures and swim advisories issued to protect public health at the beach. Exposure to polluted water can cause skin rashes and infections, flu-like symptoms, and gastro-intestinal illnesses such as diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.With the impacts and threats are very real, Surfrider identifies water quality issues and the sources of ocean pollution in order to address, advocate and prevent pollution. Right now, Surfrider is asking the public to support the Environmental Protection Agency in their efforts to restore Clean Water Act protections for small streams and wetlands, because clean water at the beach starts with healthy waters upstream. Learn more about Surfrider’s Clean Water Initiative at Surfrider.org.