In the first major crackdown on octroi evaders causing financial losses to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), additional municipal commissioner (projects) Rajeev Jalota conducted surprise raids on Sunday and suspended five civic officials accused of aiding evaders.
In early morning raids Jalota, along with other civic officials, intercepted two trucks near the Suman Nagar junction and found both had evaded octroi duty at the Mulund octroi naka. Both trucks were carrying thermo mechanically treated (TMT) steel bars worth nearly Rs16 lakh.
Civic sources said more officials were likely to face a similar fate in the coming days as an inquiry about one of the two trucks intercepted is still pending. A civic official from the assessment and collection department said, "Around 7 am, Jalota and his team intercepted two trucks at a petrol pump near the Suman Nagar junction. Jalota discovered the fraud when he asked the drivers for the octroi duty invoices."
Another senior civic official, from the same department, said, "After inspecting their papers, it was found that one truck had paid only Rs 1,800 instead of the Rs 24,000 it was supposed to have paid. The other truck had not paid even a single paisa."
A probe was immediately ordered into both cases. In the first case, wherein the truck was allowed to pass after paying a paltry duty, the probe held five officials guilty. The probe found the octroi agent appointed by the transport company had claimed that the consignment was nothing but metal scrap and hence, tried escaping by paying a paltry fine. "Our officials were guilty because they did not even ask for the papers of the consignment and went by the agent's word," a civic source said.
Accordingly, Jalota has now suspended five officials, comprising four octroi inspectors and one supervising inspector, identified as Sudhir Chavan. Significantly, Jalota's actions are similar to those of former civic joint municipal commissioner V Radha, who had fought the octroi mafia and stopped evasion by conducting surprise raids at octroi nakas.
Recently appointed civic chief Subodh Kumar has been known for his emphasis on increasing the civic body's revenue. Octroi collections are the highest revenue earners for the BMC.