If the evasion in stamp duty and registration fee in just one tehsil of Punjab amounts to over Rs 3 crore, one can imagine what the figure will be for all 77 tehsils of the state. According to information obtained for Amritsar-2 tehsil under the Right to Information by Baldev Singh Sirsa of the Consortium of Indian Farmers Associations, the evasion is a whopping Rs 3.59 crore.
The huge evasion in stamp duty and registration fee has taken place or is still taking place as certain revenue officials are registering documents, for sale-purchase of properties, at below the collector rate or under less punitive heads.
The amount mentioned on account of evasion is for the period April 4, 2000 to March 31, 2012. Annual audits of Amritsar-2 tehsil pointed to the evasion amount at the end of each financial year and this amount kept being carried forward by auditors.
Reacting to the information provided by the office of the Sub-Registrar, Amritsar-2 tehsil, Sirsa said that despite the large-scale evasion, no sincere attempt had been made to recover the amount, which was public money. He pointed out that an inquiry was conducted in 2002, which indicted certain revenue officials of corruption and registering documents at below the collector rate and also for evasion of stamp duty.
The report that looked into documents between 1996 and 2000 found that the evasion scam was around Rs 1 crore, just for Amritsar-2 tehsil. However, some of the officials named in the report were still in office and evasion had taken place under them even after 2000, he added.
"It is unfortunate that the SAD-BJP government despite knowing the names of the corrupt revenue officials or tehsildars was protecting them," Sirsa told HT here on Monday.
Referring to the dismal fiscal health of the state, Sirsa said, "It is unfortunate that while on the one hand, the salaries of employees of a number of government departments are pending for months, on the other hand, no concrete steps are being taken to recover the outstanding amounts from revenue officials. Worse, these same officials manage postings at lucrative places and have good political links."
Sirsa said he would collect similar information from all tehsils of the state. He claimed that the outstanding amount in Amritsar-2 tehsil was far more than the amount shown after auditing and only an impartial inquiry would bring out the reality.
"The level of corruption in the revenue department can be gauged from the fact that most properties are registered at the collector rate which is always far below the market rate, at which a property is sold or bought. Documents rarely show the actual rate implying that large chunks of money exchanges hands between the buyer-seller and the revenue official," he alleged.
"Our farmers' association is going to launch a statewide drive to bring to the fore the level of corruption in the revenue department. For years, farmers and others have been at the mercy of patwaris and tehsildars and others in the revenue department who have become rich over the years," Sirsa added.
Official sources, when contacted, said the administration was aware of the amounts outstanding against each tehsildar or naib tehsildar. While in some cases, the outstanding amounts had been deposited by the officials concerned, in others it was in the process of being recovered.
"Some officials have been indicted after departmental inquiries in the past. Action is pending against them as they have gone in appeal before the tribunal concerned. However, a warning has been issued to officials concerned to deposit any outstanding amount against their name, and if they do not, action will be taken against them," the official claimed.