Indian taxmen say lack of hands, infrastructure could derail black money hunt….writes Bappaditya Chatterjee
Faced with an acute manpower shortage, lack of logistical support and infrastructural bottlenecks in the Income Tax department, the objective of unearthing concealed income, or black money, through the demonetisation route could become a distant dream, taxmen say.
They say it would not be possible to shoulder the burden of the mounting workload that has followed the demonetisation announcement if the government does not take measures to solve the problems.
“After demonetisation was announced on November 8, a significant portion of black money has been routed back to channels of bank and post offices. Ingenious methods like hawala route, conversion into gold, bullion, jewellery, land etc., are also being adopted to convert old currency notes.
“The department is facing huge shortage of manpower and infrastructure. How can the process of identification, examination, investigation and verification of these transactions be done to unearth black money,” Income Tax Gazetted Officers’ Association (ITGOA) Secretary General Bhaskar Bhattacharya asked while speaking to IANS.
Pointing to the manpower shortage, ITGOA West Bengal unit President Mrinal Kanti Chanda told IANS: “At all-India level, 396 posts are vacant against the sanctioned 2,200 at the level of assistant and deputy commissioners, which is a crucial category for working on the assessment exercise.”
“About 30-35 percent posts are vacant in the category if we also include the posts of joint and additional commissioner.”
He said the vacancy at the staff level is even worse — around 40 percent.
“In the executive assistant category, the vacancy was more than 6,000 against the sanctioned 19,837 posts at the all-India level. In the multi-tasking staff category, there are about 5,897 employees available out of the sanctioned 11,338 across India. In the notice serving cadre, about 1,000 are available out of 3,974 posts,” ITGOA’s West Bengal unit General Secretary Sayantan Banerjee told IANS.
He said as part of the cadre restructuring exercise which was started in 2008 and finalised in 2013, the department had proposed 600 new posts in the assistant and deputy commissioner level.
“Unfortunately, the then United Progressive Alliance cabinet had approved only 202 posts. The move compromised the effectiveness of the all-important field functioning,” he added.
Detailing the unprecedented workload, ITGOA Joint Secretary (West Bengal Unit) Sanmay Dasghosh told IANS: “Presently, 5.24 crore people are filing income tax returns. Of them, two percent are covered under computer aided scrutiny selection where manual intervention is not required. But for the rest, manual intervention may be needed to fix the tax obligation.”
The employees also said they were demoralised with denial of their promotions and pay benefits.
Elaborating on the inadequate infrastructure, Chanda said: “Due to severe office space problems at places like Mumbai, assessing officers have to conduct hearings on a rotational basis. In West Bengal’s Darjeeling district IT office, there is no ladies toilet.”
He said the department has undergone a sea-change in the last few years with introduction of new fields, but the addition of space was inadequate.
“At many places, the department does not have its own offices. Instead, it runs offices at rented premises,” Dasghosh said.
Banerjee said that though policy-makers have been strongly advocating e-governance and e-communication, the “internet and intranet connectivity of the department are very poor”, hindering e-governance as well as internet-based enquiries and assessments.
“When such a high stake rides on the taxmen, the Finance Minister sanctioned proposal for laptop procurement which is unnecessarily stuck at the department of expenditure. The proposal has not materialised till date depriving the facility of being connected on the move and the idea of Digital India,” Dasghosh said.