Parties turn blind eye to jeera tax evasion
The jeera trade sees an annual turnover of Rs 1,500 crore, but tax evasion costs the state Rs 300-400 crore, local market sources claim. Dharmendra Jore reports.india Updated: Dec 14, 2007 01:53 IST
Spice is the trade in Unjha and tax evasion, many say, is the way of life in Unjha.
Some 20 km from Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s birthplace Vadnagar, Unjha in Mehsana district has the country’s largest jeera (cumin) and isabgol (laxative) market.
The jeera trade sees an annual turnover of Rs 1,500 crore, but tax evasion costs the state Rs 300-400 crore, local market sources claim.
Political parties would like to be silent on this. Asked about tax evasion by traders, a saffron worker, Ramnikbahi Patel, snaps. “So what? It happens everywhere. Why do you single out Unjha?”
Rasikbhai Patel, a self-proclaimed Congressman, says he would discuss other issues not tax evasion.
The Unjha market receives commodities from north Gujarat, Saurashtra, Kutch and Rajasthan. Some 7 lakh bags of jeera were exported this year. Every day, the market receives 2,500 bags of the spice — one bag contains 60 kg. The price ranges from Rs 1,800 to 3,000 for 20 kg.
The BJP-run Unjha Agriculture Produce Market Committee says it conducts open auctions transparently. “Our role is limited to facilitating auctions in our 36-acre yard. We charge certain amount for it,” says committee secretary Vishnubhai M. Patel. “We’re not concerned about what happens outside our office.”
The town’s 1,000-plus duplexes, almost all valued over
Rs 1 crore, and luxury cars show Unjha is filthy rich. “All the wealth hasn’t come to us by legal means. Most of us manipulate records to evade taxes. Paperless transaction is the easiest way to accumulating wealth,” a trader says.
A sales tax official says his department checks on traders regularly. “But these people are protected by politicians and have money to buy taxmen.”
The department’s website says two jeera dealerships were cancelled for bogus billing. But that was back in 2001.