Poll fund tracker: All lines on this route are busy, on irrelevant calls
Although the income tax (I-T) department received 400 calls on its 24x7 hotline — launched to track illegal money being used to influence voters during the elections — in the past month, officials say 60% of these are “irrelevant”. I-T officials said these “irrelevant” callers are varied — consisting of divorced women complaining about former husbands’ “undeclared sources of income”; those inquiring about their I-T refunds; and some wanting to settle personal scores with their enemies, among others.
The hotline was launched by the investigation wing of the I-T department on March 18 to keep a check on the movement of illegal funds, meant to mobilise voters in the election season. Officials had also shared the infoline numbers, urging the public to provide genuine and helpful information.
A similar hotline launched during the 2014 general elections had received only 125 calls as compared to the 400-plus calls received in the past month. “We take each call seriously and the information is verified. Accordingly, the further course of action is decided. However, hardly any of the information received so far led to the seizure of illegal money meant to influence the election,” said Santosh Mankoskar, additional I-T commissioner (investigation). The department has seized more than ₹14 crore cash since the code of conduct was implemented, but none of it was being used to influence voters.
An official from the I-T department said most callers wanted to settle scores with their enemies and provided vague and sometimes false information. Such callers, he said, includes divorced women, providing information about their ex-husbands’ “black money”. Some callers, a senior official said, kept inquiring about their I-T refunds, while others sought information on constituencies and candidates, often lending their expert analysis on the polls.
“We don’t rely solely on the public for information. We have our own network, based on which, we’ve seized more than ₹14 crore cash. Part of the money was unaccounted for and is suspected to have been routed via hawala channels. But, no funds being mobilised for election purpose, were seized,” said an official. However, the department plans to continue the exercise till the elections end. Apart from the infoline, the department has deployed 200 officials, formed six Quick Response Teams , and stationed air intelligence units at the airports and air bases to check the flow of illegal money being used to influence voters.