Syndicate raj at Srirampur check gate

Truckers still paying taxes at illegal counters; DC asks SDO to submit verification report


KOKRAJHAR, July 4: Diganta Kalita had purchased a new truck at Siliguri recently. While Kalita was entering Assam through the Srirampur check-gate, he was stopped by personnel manning the gate and asked to pay Rs 1 lakh, which included sales tax and a fine. A bewildered Kalita was wandering about the area when he was accosted by some persons who apparently knew about the sticky situation he was in.

The unknown persons assured Kalita that they can negotiate with the personnel manning the gate. Finding no other altertive, Kalita accompanied them to a counter at the gate and filly settled for a payment of Rs 30,000.

At 7 pm in the evening, Kalita's truck was allowed to enter the State. The unidentified persons and a couple of policemen escorted Kalita for about 5 kms before returning to the gate.

This is a regular scene at the Srirampur check-gate.

While the new BJP-led government has declared a war against corruption and syndicate raj, uuthorized middlemen continue to run the roost at Srirampur gate, brazenly operating illegal counters at the behest of corrupt officials and politicians.

The new government has closed down the forest and excise gates at Srirampur, but several other gates continue to thrive.

A team of jourlists from Kokrajhar on Thursday last visited the inter-state check gate and found dalals extorting money from truckers from illegal counters along the tiol highway.

Most of these illegal counters are allegedly operating with the patroge of some officials of the Sales Tax department. An agent of one such illegal counter told jourlists they have "valid permission" from the Sales Tax department and thus their counters are authorized. He also claimed the illegal counters have closed business and truckers can now pass after submitting their documents to the government counter.

Superintendent of Taxes H. Medhi, however, claimed no permission has been given to operate such counters. "If these counters have got online permission from the higher authorities, then I can't say anything," he said.

His statement contradicts claims by a section of dalals who say they have authorization letters from the Superintendent of Taxes.

The truckers prefer to take the services of dalals as they also assist in clearing the traffic and ensuring faster service delivery.

Most of the truckers at the gate said that they can pay tax at the government counter directly, but "it takes a lot of time".

"Drivers would definitely want to get the pass fast. So they pay a little more to the dalals. Plus many drivers do not know the official procedure. You pay the dalals and your work is done," they said.

The Enforcement Inspector of MVI PK Doley claimed there were no malpractices at Srirampur check gate.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Commissioner of Kokrajhar MP Sharma on Monday admitted that the dalals were running illegal counters in Srirampur inter-state check gate. He said there were authorized and uuthorized counters in the check gate which assist government officials in challan and document verification of the trucks.

Sharma said the authorized counters are under the scanner and would be closed if they do not work properly and legally. He said the police had nothing to do with the collection of revenue at the check gates. He also said the SDO (C), Gossaigaon has been instructed to verify the counters and the people manning them.   

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