note demonetisation

Demonetisation: Income Tax notice to Catholic Church in Goa kicks up a political controversy

The Archdiocese of Goa was given less than a day to provide details of cash in hand.

An Income-Tax notice sent to the Archdiocese of Goa last week following the Union government’s decision to withdraw high-value notes earlier this month has created a political stir in the state that is scheduled for Assembly elections early next year. The state Opposition has said that the notice shows the Bharatiya Janata Party’s biased attitude towards minority institutions.

The notice gave the Archdiocese less than a day to furnish, among other information, details of the cash balance, and the number of demonetised notes the Goa Catholic Church and its affiliates held as on November 8, when the government’s demonetisation policy was announced.

The request was dated November 18, which the Archdiocese received on November 21 – the very day it was expected to furnish the details sought. It was made under Section 133 (6) of the Income-Tax Act.

An Archdiocese is the word the Catholic church uses to refer to an area for which an Archbishop, a senior priest, is responsible. All of Goa’s Catholic churches come under the Goa Archdiocese.

Details of cash in hand

Though the Income-Tax notice is one of several sent to trusts and religious bodies in the country following the demonetisation announcement, in Goa, the department has been accused of singling out only the Archdiocese.

“If the government is asking a religious institution to furnish financial details in a day, it reflects on the government’s attitude towards minority institutions,” Congress spokesman Sunil Kawthankar told Scroll.in. “We have seen the attitude in the past as well.”

The notice from the office of the assistant commissioner of Income-Tax (Exemptions), Circle- 1, based in Mangaluru, seeks several details from the Financial Reorganisation Fund of the Archdiocese of Goa.

The notice says a Central Board of Direct Taxes direction seeks urgent information about “cash balances with trust/society/AOP [Association of Persons] etc. Hence, you are required to furnish the details of cash balance held by your trust as well as all institutions and branches etc under your trust as on day 8th November 2016.”

It further sought a “self-attested copy of cash book of all the institutions as on 7th, 8th and 9th of November 2016”, balance as on March 31, and a declaration of the number of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes held by the Fund and its affiliates as on November 8.

Need more time

“The Fund files its returns regularly,” said a church insider with knowledge of the workings of the Archdiocese. “We will comply with all their requests. But we have asked for more time to submit the same as it is not possible to collect and collate the information from over 100 affiliates in a day’s time.”

Meetings have already been called within the Archdiocese to organise the data collection, which will involve all state’s parishes – the small administrative districts into which the Archdiocese is divided.

Catholic churches usually take a cash collection during weekly Sunday services. This money is used for maintenance, charity and other related purposes by the church administration. Following demonetisation, the weekly cash collections have reportedly dropped possibly due to a perceived scarcity of low-denomination notes.

‘Singling Church out’

Local English daily The Goan, questioned why only the Church was picked for the notice. It published a report on Saturday that pointed out that Income-Tax authorities had not asked any of the prominent religious bodies of other faiths in the state to declare cash in hand and cash book entries.

In an editorial on Saturday titled, In Bad Faith, the newspaper asked why the government was not looking at places where black money was traditionally spent.

  “Is there anyone in government to tell us if letters have also been sent to the casino industry, for instance…The onus is now on the I-T department to prove that it is approaching the black money issue with an even hand. It has to show and prove that it is looking in the right places and not using the law as a tool to harass religious institutions”.  

Though reports have also pointed out that Hindu temples in particular have not received any such Income-Tax notice, this is possibly due to the fact that many temples do not come under the Income-Tax Act under which the notice has been served.

On Sunday, Shantaram Naik, a member of Parliament from the Rajya Sabha from Goa, expressed his surprise that the central government was “selectively target[ing]” Goa churches and said that churches in the state should be exempt from Income-Tax just as Hindu temples were.

Following the demonetisation announcement earlier this month, a clutch of firms and individual offices in Goa, including a mining firm, were searched by Income-Tax officials. These raids have been creating a stir in the poll-bound state with supporters of the Opposition parties particularly hard hit.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.