SHILLONG, Feb 23 - Probably by July this year, the Srirampur check gate on the Assam-West Bengal border, which often grabs the headlines for the wrong reasons, might become irrelevant with the implementation of the GST, but that would not be the case entirely.
Not just the Sirampur check gate, but other check gates along inter-State borders in the landlocked North-east and elsewhere in the country would cease to exist once the GST was implemented.
“Check gates such as Srirampur, Byrnihat and others will no longer exist as sales, excise and other taxes will be subsumed by the GST. The truckers will only carry waybills, which need not be checked anywhere except the place of origin and destination,” IR Kharkongor, Deputy Commissioner of Customs, told this correspondent on Wednesday.
The official said that truckers would not have to pay sales and other taxes as they could ply from one destination to another with the help of just a waybill. If there are reports of irregularities, the waybills and goods can be checked anywhere, but such checking will be done only in rare cases, Kharkongor added.
However, the customs official pointed out that these were still early days as reports emerged today that States are insisting on e-permits for trucks at inter-State check gates during the ongoing talks on the implementation of the GST. The Central Government, in its eagerness to implement the GST, has reportedly ceded to the States’ “regressive demand.”
This is a huge setback for the GST, experts have opined, as the old Inspector Raj system will continue where checking of documents (now e-documents) will be done at check gates and will cause considerable delay. All this is also likely to allow the corruption at such places to linger.
One of the benefits of the GST, especially for a region like the North-east, would be the redundancy of check gates like Srirampur which, many believe, are the hubs of corruption and nepotism.
Apart from harassment meted out by “corrupt officials” at such check gates, the delays at the inter-State junctions also cost a great deal in terms of time and money. With the smooth flow of traffic in lesser time, the prices of commodities are likely to drop once the check gates are abolished.
The Srirampur check gate, which sees a large number of traffic every day, is reportedly a sought-after place of posting for government officials. Officials are allegedly willing to dole out large amounts of money as bribes for a post at the check gate.
The GST is likely to be rolled out by July as the major hurdles are being overcome one by one. Some of the major benefits of the GST will include doing away with the cascading effect of multiple taxes and the seamless flow of goods from one part of the country to another.
But with demands like e-permits, the GST may not be able to bring all the benefits to those for whom it was envisioned in the first place and end up as another tax regime, experts now feel.