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news details
Toll post scam: At Aru-Pahalgam entry gate, wildlife department officials issue blank receipts
5/21/2019 11:15:06 PM
Saahil Suhail
Early Times Report
Anantnag, May 21: State exchequer continues to incur losses as influential officials and employees of the Wildlife department posted at Aru Valley toll post in Pahalgam have allegedly swindled huge amounts.
Sources revealed to Early Times that the employees deployed at Aru wildlife sanctuary-Mandlan toll post- for collecting entry fee from visitors are issuing blank receipts to visiting tourists.
This can be gauged from the fact that a blank receipt handed over to a tourist at toll post has gone viral on social media sites forcing top officials of the department to intervene and initiate a probe into the matter.
"GR bearing number 2421923 dated 17-05-2019 was issued in favor of Mr Bhavish for two persons but the receipt hasn't quoted any amount. This is gross violation of standing rules," reads a wildlife department communique, a copy of which lies with ET.
According to sources, the employees posted at toll post deliberately don't quote any amount on receipts at the time of issuing them so that they can manipulate the toll tax collection at the end of day and swindle huge amount.
"The entry fee is being collected from each person but a single receipt is being issued per vehicle. Therefore, the employees have to quote the amount on receipt," official sources said.
They reveal that the department is collecting Rs 3-4 Lakhs each year from the toll post which surprisingly puts the figure of visiting tourists shockingly in hundreds.
"Every year thousands of national and international tourists visit Aru Valley, however the tax collected by the department is too less. I was shocked to know that department 's collection is just Rs 4 to Rs 5 lakh in a year," they added.
Regional Wildlife warden Kashmir, Rashid Naqash had directed Wildlife Warden South Division, (Bijbehara) to immediately seize the record and investigate the matter as issuing receipts without mention of amount is gross violation of standing rules.
"The responsible hands who have issued incomplete GR be identified and strict action warranted under rules be initated against them as envisaged under rules with intimation to this office as well," reads Regional Wildlife warden's letter which he wrote to Wildlife Warden South Division on Tuesday vide letter number RWLK/K/Estt/2019-20/242-43.
According to circular of the wildlife department, Rs 25 are being collected from visiting national tourist at the toll post and if the tourist has a camera then the tourist has to pay additional Rs 100 for the gadget while as a foreigner has to pay Rs 50 for himself and Rs 200 for the camera.
In 2015, then Forest Minister Bali Bhagat, had ordered an inquiry into 'Aru Toll tax scam'. A senior IFS officer deputed by the minister for investigating the scam, record was seized and but the inquiry report was never made public.
Then wildlife warden Bijbehara had admitted that the staff deployed at toll post was minting money illegally and that they (staff) had links with politicians.
In 2015, from January to July, 121556 domestic and 3461 foreigners had visited Aru valley. "At Aru toll post wildlife department charges Rs 25 from every domestic tourist and Rs 50 from foreigner so when the number of domestic tourists is 121556 then the toll post should had generated an income of Rs over 30 Lakhs but the department had shown that they collected only five lakh rupees.
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