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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Revenue Officials agitating over 'Raw Deal'

At a time when the government is facing an economic downslide with lower or negative tax collection, it is facing serious unrest in the ranks of departments assigned the job of mopping up resources with thousands of customs, central excise and income tax officials being up in arms against anomalies in their pay scales and bleak promotional avenues.

Thousands of customs officials struck work on Tuesday and took to the streets against the delay in their promotions, in what can set back government’s already difficult task to realise the revenue target. Customs and central excise officials from across the country gathered at Jantar Mantar in the Capital on Tuesday, to march up to barricades raised at Parliament Street police station.

The protest comes even as income tax officials, another revenue gathering arm, have already resorted to a ‘go slow’ to insist on removal of pay anomalies and for better prospects of promotion

There has been no official announcement yet. But officials of the income tax department, sources say, have been dragging their feet on the surveys that are crucial for detecting tax evasions and tax collection. Sources said all field formations of income tax have stopped sending Central Action Plan (CAP) dossiers since August to the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).

The CAP is a vital report generated on a monthly basis that gives a summary of scrutiny assessments, demands raised and collected, arrears collection and manpower deployment, besides helping in collection of data for micromanagement of the economy.

Sources said revenue secretary P V Bhide has called a meeting of all 18 chief commissioners of I-T at North Block on Wednesday to deliberate on the slowdown in the tax collection. With a few CBDT members having already raised the issue of discontentment in the rank and file over the pay anomalies and its impact on the tax mop up, the revenue department boss is likely to address the matter.

The discontentment over the ‘alleged’ raw deal from the 6th pay commission is not only restricted to the IRS cadre officers, but spread even to the ranks of inspectors, superintendents and promotee assistant commissioners who feel they have been ignored. The lower rungs feel discriminated even from their top bosses in the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and CBDT.

Ravi Malik, an office-bearer of the All-India Association of Central Excise Officers which organised the march, alleged that the higher-ups in the CBEC had deliberately delayed promotions for superintendents and others eligible to be promoted in Group A. “Even when promotions are granted, they are in the Junior Group A level and many of those promoted remain without a posting for a long time,” he said.