For years, Rahul Gandhi has been on a spree libelling GST as Gabbar Singh tax and attacking the Modi Govt for it, but in his own Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh, this jibe has come to be known of something else – An undefined tax of sorts, nowhere on the books but being collected from coal businessmen in the northern part of the state.
Local media portals have reported that in the five big mining areas in the Korba, Raigarh, Janjgeer, Champa, Surajpur and Ambikapur districts, businessmen dealing with mining and transportation are being charged a tax of Rs. 25 per tonne at the barriers. The merchants and businessmen have started calling it the Gabbar Singh tax.
It is noteworthy, that earlier there was no need to pay the pit pass/permit for the transport of coal, because earlier after all the legal formalities with SECL (South Eastern Coalfields Limited), the mined coal used to reach the businessmen directly. However now, as per reports, there has allegedly been interference from the Mining Resources Department and District Collector. Fingers have started to point towards the implication of CMO if it is on their behest is this being carried on.
There are reports that any truck carrying coal on state highways is being stopped and a pit pass of Rs 25 per tonne is demanded. If they fail to do so, they are being harassed with the seizure of the truck or accusations of illegal transportation of coal. It is noteworthy that there is no statutory order with Mining Department nor is there any notification by the Chhattisgarh Govt to collect any such tax.
In such a scenario, it looks apparently like extortion. Moreover, if they refuse to pay, they are threatened with dire consequences by sending teams from the Environment and Labor Departments. Being a big mining region, the total money exacted is estimated to be about Rs. 100 crore per month.
It is noteworthy that online transactions, cheques or drafts have been ignored for the collection of the so-called pit pass tax but payments are made in only cash. Businesses are puzzled as to where to display this expenditure in their income tax returns as they do not have any bills or receipts. With no accountability, questions are being asked whether what use this money is going to be put into.
Already there are reports that black money was used in anti CAA protests and Delhi riots. Also, being a Naxal sensitive zone, there are dangers of money reaching the wrong hands. Moreover, it is a huge discouraging dampener for corporates to see Chhattisgarh as an investment opportunity with such undeclared taxes that might risk the potential jobs of thousands of youth in the state.
The deafening silence of Congress stalwarts from the area is shocking. T S Singhdeo who hails from Ambikapur and the Mahant couple (Charandas Mahant, the Assembly Speaker and his wife Jyotsna Mahant, MP from Korba) has not given any reaction to this alleged loot. Nor has Jaisingh Agrawal, the Minister of Revenue from the same area has spoken on the alleged illegal e-permit.
On the other hand, BJP leaders Amar Agrawal have tweeted against the extortion. At a time when Bhupesh Baghel Govt is already facing backlash over the assault on senior journalist Kamal Shukla by local Congress leaders, it looks like politics over the Gabbar Singh Tax, if heated might create a storm in Chhattisgarh.