The Railways may have evaded sales-tax payment of Rs 2,000 crore, and the whistleblower has reported threat to his life and job.
Punjab's joint director of sales and taxation in the combined division of Faridkot and Ferozepur had summoned the chief commercial manager (CCM) of the railways over non-submission of particulars that would have helped uncover the scam.
Joint director captain YS Matta had summoned PK Goyal, CCM, Northern Railway, at Delhi, second time and given him another 14 days to furnish the information. On Wednesday, a six-member team from Delhi, Ambala, and Ferozepur divisions of the railways appeared before captain Matta and, besides denying him the information, told him to collect it from the office. "My life and job are under threat," captain Matta told HT after the meeting.
Divisional commercial manager (DCM) Shamsher Singh; commercial inspector (Ambala division) Manjit Singh; assistant commercial manager (ACM, Ferozepur division) Trilok Singh; commercial inspector (Ferozepur) Devi Lal; ACM (Delhi) Ajay Kumar Naulakh, senior commercial clerk Krishan Kumar, and lawyer Sushil Jindal were on the team that met captain Matta.
Suspecting illegal transport of goods worth Rs 10 crore a day by train, captain Matta had asked the Railways to reveal the number of agreements with the agents who booked the SLP/VPs (break vans/parcel vans attached to passenger trains). He had also sought the agent/company address; date of agreement; validity of the deal; number of packages in each consignment; origin and destination of shipments; serial numbers, name, and the number of train in which the SLR/VPs were attached; value of the goods in each van; sale tax number, TIN, and VAT code of the consignor and consignee; and if the vans were not emptied at the destination booked.
A few days ago at the Bathinda Railway station, assistant sub-inspector of police Surjit Singh had abused and threatened the sale tax department raiding squad that had impounded 266 unaccounted-for packets at the station.
"To my calculation, it's a scam of more than Rs 2,000 crore," captain Matta told HT. "The goods transferred illegally included tobacco (22% value-added tax); electrical and electronic goods such as flat screens and microwave ovens (13.75% VAT); dry fruits, readymade garments, and footwear (5.5% VAT); and hosiery garments and other goods (high VAT)."
"The railways aren't cooperating with us," said the joint director in the sales tax department. "They obstruct our raids and don't verify if the shipments contain drugs, weapons, or explosives."
Last week, the sales tax department imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on the railways for transporting 266 packets that carried no TIN or VAT number. It impounded the shipment at the Bathinda railway station. "Violating the joint-committee norms of 2006 and judgment of the Kerela high court clarifying the powers of our department, ASI Surjit Singh threatened to slap a fake case on us," said captain Matta. "Today (on Wednesday), he submitted a written apology."
Captain Matta said he had sought information from the CCM, Northern Railway, for he had smelled a scam. "I gave him an extra two weeks to collect the data of the past seven years," he said. "I am free to take legal action that the CCM cannot appeal against in any civil court."