Even check gates for non-GST items will go, affected departments will be compensated, says Himanta
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
Guwahati, July 16: Check gates or toll gates in Assam which have become synonymous with corruption will vanish from August 1.
Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Sunday announced that the State government will shut down all inter-state check gates from next month, a step aimed at doing away with illegal collection of tax from transporters entering the State. He said while the new GST regime has made existence of check gates on many items irrelevant, the present government has taken a principled decision to shut down all such gates along inter-state borders.
“As a measure of goodwill, the State government has decided to go beyond GST and close down even those gates, which deal with non-GST items,” Sarma said.
Corruption in check gates in the erstwhile Congress regime and the promise to close the same by the BJP was one of the major issues in the 2016 Assembly elections that brought the saffron party to power for the first time in Assam.
Sarma said the government’s decision to shut down all check gates will result in major revenue loss for the State exchequer. He, however, said the actual impact of revenue loss will be known only after a year.
“Some departments like Excise, Transport and Agriculture will have to bear major losses in terms of revenue as GST is not applicable on goods dealt by the department,” Sarma said.
He said the Assam State Agriculture Marketing Board will be the worst hit as the check gate run by the Agriculture department used to collect Rs 62 crores revenue annually for the board. The board has been using this revenue for various purposes including paying salaries to its 1,100 employees.
Sarma said the State government is mooting some plans including giving more funds to Assam State Agriculture Marketing Board to procure more paddy. The board gets commission from the government for procuring paddy. He said the government will also make a separate compensation package for the board in case abolition of Agriculture check gate takes heavy toll on the financial health of the organization.
The government will hold a meeting with all departments concerned tomorrow to chalk out a detailed policy in this regard, the Minister said.
“We will have to devise a policy to give some sort of compensation to these departments like the marketing board. In case of Excise, the government will have to reduce to State taxes to make the prices at par with other states so that illegal transportation stops. We will take a final decision tomorrow,” Sarma said.