Syed Junaid Hashmi
A standing amount of Rs. 2509.11 crore outstanding against various government departments, influential individuals, firms and traders makes mockery of resource mobilisation drive to be undertaken by Jammu and Kashmir government.
There is no convincing explanation as to why these government departments, influential individuals, firms and traders have been allowed to get away with default at the expense of ordinary tax payers of cash starved state of Jammu and Kashmir. As opposed to government’s lax attitude in this matter, stringent laws have been put in place to check any default on part of ordinary tax payer.
It needs no mention that ordinary tax payer is dealt with harshly with penalties and punishments. Approximately, an amount of Rs. 885.11 crore is recoverable from various individuals, firms and traders on account of various taxes administered by commercial taxes department. Of this, Rs. 800.89 crore is to be recovered as goods and services tax while Rs. 84.22 crore Value Added Tax (VAT) is recoverable from various firms and traders.
Officials manning departments making recoveries of commercial tax and VAT give complex theoretical explanations for being unable to make effective recoveries. On being pressed, their one lines reply is “Yeh Sab well-connected log hain. Aur Sab upar se hota hai.” 95 industrial firms and companies, most of whom have closed their units in Jammu and Kashmir owe whopping Rs. 503.54 crore to the government. 117 government departments have not paid Rs. 839.41 crore power arrears which are outstanding against them since the last many years.
And, it has now become a matter of routine for the media houses to print the details of these outstanding arrears every year. Government has now come up with a new act to put curbs on power theft by ordinary consumers who despite being criticised and condemned pay illegally to the staff and legally to department for consuming power.
However, state government has been unable to take to task departments who consume electricity but prefer not to pay for that. Arrears outstanding on account of excise revenue for liquor licenses in Jammu and Srinagar are around Rs. 3.58 crore while similar other outstanding under different heads accrue to around Rs. 32.86 crore.
State government has also miserably failed to recover outstanding amount of Rs. 10.02 crores from storekeepers and sale depot owners of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD). Most of the defaulters have gone to the court and got the recovery initiated against the stayed and government continues to play role of ‘sleeping partner’ in this huge embezzlement.
Besides, Jammu and Kashmir government despite being directed to either close down or privatize loss making public sector undertakings (PSUs) has been giving them budgetary support of around Rs. 2515.86 lakh or more on annual basis. Ministry of Finance explains that support is meant to ensure regular payment of salaries to the employees still working in these PSUs.
This is despite the fact that statutory audit of 19 of the 20 Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) has not been done for the last more than 12 to 17 years. Of these, 9 public sector undertakings (PSUs) pay around Rs. 80.49 crore to their employees as liability towards post retirement dues and pay arrears. Besides this, defaulters of Jammu and Kashmir State Financial Corporation (JKSFC) which includes various industrialists also have to pay around Rs. 120 crore to the corporation.
If this amount is also added, the default would across Rs. 3000 crore. Alongside these outstandings, state government has been suffering huge losses on account of some inapt administrative decisions. Estates department has been paying annually around Rs. 30 to 35 crore to various hotels, lodges, government owned goes houses of JKTDC and restaurants for accommodating durbar move employees alongside spending crores on annual move from Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa.
Besides this, state has been bearing a huge loss of Rs. 250 crores per annum for the last 25 years due to Punjab government’s outright refusal to construct Shahpur Kandi Barrage which is supposed to be main source of water for Ravi Canal. Moreover, the State of Punjab enacted Punjab termination of agreement Act of 2004 vide which the State of Punjab scrapped all the water sharing agreements reached between the state of Punjab and other states including Jammu and Kashmir.
Thus about 1,05,700 acres of cultivable area has been deprived of irrigation facilities over the years by Punjab government. Effective deprivation of irrigation facilities may be more than this figure due to under-utilization of old and worn out machinery and erratic releases from the Ranjit Sagar Dam by the Punjab Government. On account of this, the losses have gone up to Rs. 6250 crores approximately.