Cable television operators are evading entertainment duty on a massive scale, reveals an on-going survey by the city collectorate.
Though the 1,070-odd cable television operators in the island city have reported 1.98 lakh customers, officials from the collectorate expect the numbers to be much more.
Around 2.17 lakh connections have been detected so far, and the numbers are expected to swell to 3.98 lakh. Around 6.06 lakh households have been covered in the survey, the results of which will be out by month-end.
Moreover, enumerators have been asked to survey again around 33,000 households, which were reportedly shut during the course of the survey.
"We are expecting around one lakh connections over and above those declared by the operators. However, with the conditional access system (CAS) coming into force from January 1, 2007, the system will be more transparent and consumer-friendly," said district collector Valsa Nair-Singh.
The survey was initiated after a pilot project in the Naigaon assembly constituency last year detected large-scale duty evasion.
Officials alleged that cable operators evade entertainment duty by underreporting the number of subscribers as duty is to be paid depending on the number of subscribers.
They also alleged that during the survey, many enumerators faced problems especially from local politicians who are in the cable business, and operators.
The collectorate, which collects Rs 36 crore as entertainment duty annually, would take penal action against the errant operators under the Bombay Entertainment Duty Act, 1923.
However, Shiv Sena MLC and Cable Operators Distributors Association (CODA) president Anil Parab doubts the effectiveness of the survey.
"Some buildings have more than one cable operator offering connections and hence, there are chances of duplication in the survey. Moreover, government officials, who collect the duty, are also party to malpractices. It is wrong to blame the cable operators alone," he said.