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Ex-DyCM allowed brazen loot of state exchequer, crores embezzled
Katra Municipal Committee Tax collection Scam
2/23/2015 1:00:14 AM
Syed Junaid Hashmi
ET Report
Jammu, Feb 22: Ex-Deputy Chief Minister and Congress leader Tara Chand is in deep trouble as curtains are likely to be lifted from Katra Municipal Committee tax scam worth crores of rupees.
The alleged scam pertains to the abrupt change in the process of tax collection which was brought about by the then Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for Housing and Urban Development Tara Chand without taking various stakeholders on board. Sources said that a complaint has been lodged with State Vigilance Commission (SVC) seeking probe into the alleged embezzlement worth crores of rupees by the authorities of Katra Municipal Committee.
Complainant has claimed that Municipal Committee (MC) Katra used to tender the collection of tax from the pilgrims of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine who would avail services of Mule, Mazdoor and Palkies. He has added that every year millions of Pilgrims from all over the India pay visit to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi and in order to reach the Holy Shrine, they hire services of Mule, Mazdoor and Palkies from various locations. Being located at a distance of 14 KM from Katra town, complainant has said that the department had outsourced the collection of tax.
This outsourcing had yielded great results with revenue showing massive increase. According to the complainant, tax collected from pilgrims of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine who availed services of Mule, Mazdoor, Palkies and that too at nominal rate of Rs. 8 was Rs. 2.96 crores when 80 lakhs pilgrims visited in the year 2007-08, Rs. 3.68 core when 83 lakhs pilgrims came in 2008-09, Rs. 4.55 crore with87 lakhs pilgrims in 2009-10 and Rs. 7.86 crore with 103 lakhs pilgrims in 2010-11. Thus revenue earnings had been increasing with each passing financial year.
The complainant had alleged that for reasons best known to the then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Municipal Committee (MC) Katra in the year 2011-12 shelved the outsourcing of tax collection from Mule, Mazdoor and Palki owners. Pointing towards the scam, the complainant has said that the tax collection should have shown massive jump from Rs. 7.86 crore in 2010-11, which was not the case. He has alleged that in the year 2011-12; Municipal Committee Katra collected Rs. 5.67 crore, which clearly points towards embezzlement.
He has further said that the department has shown to have collected just Rs. 5.67 crore despite having charged Rs. 12 per ride. He has alleged that despite steep increase in the number of pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi, tax collection has been shown too low compared to where the agency to which this had been outsourced had left. This is despite the fact that for the collection of tax from pilgrims; the then officials of Municipal Committee (MC) Katra had illegally established collection booths at Charan Paduka, Adhkawari and Bhawan, all of which were outside of their municipal jurisdiction.
The complainant had said that MC was very much within its jurisdiction to collect the tax but it should now be asked about the actual money collected by it and an inquiry should be conducted into the reasons for less collection of tax despite massive increase in pilgrim arrival. He has further alleged that this entire issue was brought to the notice of Tara Chand several times but he did nothing and instead, allowed the then official of Katra Municipal Committee to loot pilgrims coming to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine.
Seeking an in-depth probe, the complainant has alleged that in the process crores of rupees have been embezzled from the public exchequer and that too with the alleged involvement of the then Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand alongwith other officers and officials of Municipal Committee, Katra. Stating that even a rough survey of the pilgrims availing services of Mule, Mazdoor and Palkies would unveil depth of the wrongs committed by the ex-Minister and his team, the complainant has sought constituting a high level team for carrying out the probe.
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