Concerned over the evasion of market fees to the tune of lakhs of rupees by the traders, the authorities of the State Agriculture and Marketing Board on Wednesday asked the secretaries of all Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMC) to make assessment of all commission agents of the past five years.
The board further told the secretaries of APMCs to ensure the assessment on the basis of business transactions and related evidences, failing which departmental action would be initiated against the erring officials.
Notably, the special flying squad of the board had detected serious violations of the Himachal Pradesh Marketing Act during surprise checks at Baddi, Barotiwala, Nalagarh, Parwanoo, Rajgarh, Shimla, Theog and others places. The team members had found that almost all commission agents were openly flouting the laws and avoiding issuing of Q and R forms to the growers and retailers in violation of law.
The raids that were being conducted on random basis had further established that commission agents were evading the marketing fees in connivance with certain officials of APMCs in the districts.
Sources in the board revealed that besides violation of laws by traders, the board authorities had also received complaints concerning amassing of property disproportionate to known sources of income by certain marketing supervisors and secretaries that forced top officials to constitute special raiding teams to check and ensure the implementation of laws across the state. Sources revealed that it was alleged that certain officials not only inside the state, but had also purchased assets outside the states.
Sources revealed that though the APMC authorities were carrying out the assessments of the business transactions of the traders, the board authorities after detecting evasion of fees had issued fresh orders asking the officials to make the assessments for the past five years and avoid the prevailing practice of making the same on the basis of 'best judgment'.
The prevailing practice of making the assessment on the basis of best judgment was strongly opposed by those traders who had been paying the fees in accordance with the Act and maintaining the records as per law.
Confirming the order, board's managing director HS Baweja said the assessments would be made on the basis of a specially prepared format in which sale tax return, use of R and Q forms, D- declaration form, bank statements, income tax returns and payments methods would be taken into consideration.
Baweja said the APMC officials were adopting the practice of 'best judgment' that was leading to large-scale evasion of market fees year after year, thereby causing heavy loss to the state exchequer.