AF ASHIQURE RAHMAN
GOLAKGANJ, July 18 – About 1,400 to 2000 vehicles (trucks) usually ply daily along the Assam-West Bengal border in Dhubri district. These vehicles have to pass through five check posts namely Sales Tax, Motor Vehicle, Forest, Assam Agricultural Marketing Board and Excise all of which are functioning.
The Sales Tax check post is one of the most important check posts of Chagolia. The vehicles are to clear (or submit bank drafts, clearance certificate) Assam General Sales Tax and Central Sales Tax of Chagolia. Usually, upto 3-4 lakhs is collected daily at the check post by sales tax officials. But at several times, this collection decreases, too. But if the appropriate rules and regulations are strictly enforced, the collection of Sales Tax can be enhanced to several lakhs of rupees per day. However this is not the case.
The vehicles often carry false bill, challan, statements and the papers which help them earn more profit. Taxable commodities that are carried by these vehicles are often shown as non-taxable. One of the methods of evasion is that taxable goods carried of Assam are often declared in such a away that the goods are shown to be transported to any of the NE states, so that payments of tax to the Assam Government does not arise. To check this, a system of taxing “bank guarantee” or “call deposit” (which is refundable in case of genuine declaration) has been introduced at the check post. But it is found that the preventive measures to check tax evasion are not at all effective.
Transporters in some cases even change the lists of goods transported by the vehicle and names of taxable commodity are replaced by non-taxable commodities to evade tax at Chagolia check gate itself. As physical verification is the responsibility of the tax officials, they allow evasion for reasons best known of them. Due to the evasion of tax, the collection is not found to be satisfactory in comparison to the number of goods vehicles plying through the gate of Chagolia. It has also come to light that agents of about 250 transport companies are functioning around Chagolia-Boxirhat gate. Sources revealed that agents of about 150 transport companies are also from North Bengal who allegedly often helps the truckers in evading taxes. If this is not the case then the question that arises here is, what are the functions of transport agent at Chagolia if the papers of goods-carrying vehicles are found to be genuine?
It is alleged that some officials of this check post have close connection with some transport companies and the vehicles of these companies allegedly enjoy smooth passage through the gate. It is also alleged that if physical verifications are done then the victims are often the owner driver or small-time carriers with weak links. Reliable sources disclosed that transport companies for truck operators who are transporting taxable goods like egg, cement, dalda, betel nut, onion, potato etc. have been evading huge amounts of taxes. Sources further disclosed a single permit is shown against several taxable goods-carrying trucks. According to procedure transit passes are to be issued to vehicles bound for the NE States carrying taxable goods.
Transit passes are issued to such vehicles which are to be returned to this check post without one month, with a confirmation from the exit check post of the department of the State concerned that the goods were actually transported to that NE state concerned. Failure to return the transit passes to this check post within the stipulated period with the confirmation from the exit check post is assumed as evasion. Some transport companies submit bank guarantee to the department with the argument that if evasion is ever detected the department would for feit the amount from the guarantee money deposited by the companies. The guarantee money submitted by the companies is found to be low and is seldom found to be deducted, if evasion is detected. On the other hand, those transport companies have been evading taxes on the pretext that they have submitted bank guarantee.
Truck operators always allege that the non-transferable clerks of Chagolia Sales Tax check post who deal with the transit passes charge minimum of Rs 200 as extra money for issuing transit passes. Drivers always alleged that they have to pay a minimum of Rs 250/300 at the Sales Tax check post whether or not they are carrying taxable or non-taxable goods. Drivers of coal-carrying trucks told this correspondent that they are compelled to pay entry fee of Rs 300 for 6-wheeler trucks and Rs 400/500 for 10-wheeler trucks at Chagolia Sales Tax check post.