Somesh Arora: Annual Confidential Report – Sponsorship Service

Now, this one must get the crown for being most innovative method of extracting extortion. An officer in the field, who was cooling his heels in a non-sensitive charge because of his past sins and because of being close to promotion,  thought that his dry run had lasted too long. Therefore, at the time of writing A.C.Rs of his subordinates, he fixed the rate of Rs. 1,00,000/- for Good , Rs. 1,50,000/- for Very Good and Rs. 2,00,000/- for Excellent and gave option to his not so well off subordinates (because of non-sensitive charge )to get the same sponsored from parties on loan basis to be paid back in kind when their good time comes, as he may not remain in the same position after promotion. That many actually managed to get Excellent is another story. The service tax was lost to the department this year, because the negative list came to be notified little late.

 

Negative list – Interesting facets: What is a matter of interest  is how the rewards for customs and excise informers shall be treated with the coming into force of negative list? While on the Income tax side, a specific exemption always existed for reward to informers, the negative list of services does not have any provision of this kind. Now if an informer provides information related services to any Government Agency and in turn gets a reward after expecting the same in return, it is very much a service. If the reward works out to be more than Rs. 10 lakhs( SSI service provider limit) in a year, then is it expected that service tax authorities will ask such informer to shell out service tax on such amount. It will then be a case of giving by one hand and taking away by other.

Now, that the service tax is leviable on the film stars, models etc. , one can hope that Customs will also start a Star Nite for fund raising on lines of Mumbai police, where all the stars will appear and praise the Customs, more out of fear rather because of genuine accomplishments. Now that there are not many escape routes left for tax avoidance on the service tax side except entering the contract of employment, it will be of interest to see whether the Producers Guild reverts to age old practice of engaging actors as employees with the production banner- a practice which was common during the days of Raj Kapoor, Dev Anand and Guru Dutt,  when such actors were receiving salary from Production banners like NavKetan, Guru Dutt films etc.. Further, if the law as has developed on the Provident Fund and E.S.I side is considered, there are many contracts which are termed as ` contracts of employment’, the duration and period of contract may not be a consideration. It will be of interest to watch how the case law on the side of service tax develops on this aspect.

Gutkha goes, survived by many-  Few states notably M.P. , Maharashtra and H.P. in India have recently brought in or are contemplating  a ban on Gutkha considering the same to be a health hazard and a food containing tobacco, if the Gutkha goes, it may be survived by its rich and influential cousin `cigarette’. This initiative has only one parallel and that was Bhutan, where the ban both on smoking tobacco and chewable tobacco was imposed, to be lifted later after six months because of administrative hassles it created. If cigarette smoking world wide has come down it is not because of any ban but because of public awareness being created about its ill effects. Selective ban on Gutkha is bound to lead to higher smoking of beedis and cigarettes, as some surveys have shown that atleast 20 percent consumers use these products interchangeably. Therefore one lobby will be happy at the cost of another and public health will continue to suffer.  Smuggling in the course of time is bound to pick up or law shall be subverted simply by packing tobacco and Pan Masala in different pouches to be combined for consumption at the end of the consumer. Consumption thus will not be stopped unless there is complete ban on all tobacco products, which option will again lead to consumption of  stronger intoxicants or drugs. Taxing these products in the meanwhile to create a health care system is a better solution till awareness is created. Of many products that cause equal degree of harm to human health are pesticides sprayed on vegetables which are consumed by users without any knowledge and without any warning. In fact, situation is so bad that the farmers in Bhatinda( In Punjab), who were consuming their own field grown vegetables have been effected with cancer and have to take train at night for Rajasthan to get treated and the train has come to acquire the name of `cancer train’ because of the sheer number of patients it carries every night. What fate awaits the hapless and unsuspecting consumers who buy these products is any body`s guess. The adulteration of milk is so rampant that there is virtually no white colored substance which has not been used for it. The studies on the impact of such adulteration are hardly carried out by any N.G.O. as such studies are not backed by any corporate lobbies. The menace of transmission towers and brain cancer cases due to radiation from it are also likewise have not been subjected to any serious study, as there will be counter stories planted by vested interests or publication of such reports will be discouraged. There is a greater need to regulate these substances that act as Silent Killers. Adulteration affects still to be born, affects our health during our lifetime and adulterated medicines at the end of it and there are good chances that even the pure ghee that is placed on funeral pyres of many Indians is adulterated. No exaggeration, therefore in saying that an average Indian is born with adulteration, lives with adulteration, dies with adulteration and even leaves behind its mortal self to be burnt with adulteration.

New Historical Monument of Delhi : The Reliance Airport Express Metro line has emerged as the latest historical monument in the skyline of Delhi as the same is hardly being operated for some unexplicit reasons  ranging from being uneconomical to having defects in the structure. However, the truth is at one point of time a train used to run on it and when it started for the first time all the bigwigs and politicos had praised it as a wonderful project.( Alas! not long time back in public memory)