Last week, your newspaper, in its old fashioned way did some old fashioned reporting. It went to the Panjim RTO to witness institutionalised corruption, with virtual rate cards, of bribes to be paid for services, which should normally be rendered on time, as per norm and law.
The time bound delivery of services law was turned on its head, when ‘time bound service’ was delivered on paying ten times more for the transfer of car papers, or licence renewals or getting a taxi badge without getting a commercial driving licence and so on.
This is also an age when the corrupt need solid evidence against them, while whistle blowers and all those who fight against corruption, need video and audio evidence, proof of voice samples, actual money being handed over and so on and so forth to bring about a water tight case against the corrupt. The long arm of the law has to go through a complex web of rules and the law meant to ensure that the innocent are not wrongly held guilty even at the risk of the guilty getting acquitted.
But don’t we all agree that in all fairness the ratio of the guilty getting punished is way too low. The unfairness of it will come to the fore when the almost forced inquiry ordered by the department comes to naught. That will hardly be surprising since no corruption in any department can take place without the active connivance of department officials with the complete knowledge and at times participation of the highest in the department, mainly the political leadership.
In this case, the Transport Department has ordered an inquiry but we don’t yet know the outcome of this. If it is serious about conducting an inquiry, it should have reached out to Herald and asked for the statement of our reporter who is a witness himself to the blatant corruption taking place at the Panjim RTO. An internal inquiry, where an officer of a department ‘conducts’ it in isolation without speaking to the main witness in the case - the Herald reporter, -- is of no value.
By contrast, the Lokayukta has acted with great alacrity, taken suo moto cognisance, using the Herald report as a complaint and asked the Herald reporter to be present to record his statement. Herald welcomes this and is looking forward to participating in this inquiry.
Having said these, a few questions need to be asked. These are unpleasant questions, but all our readers will agree, that these are valid questions. Herald’s reporter went as any common citizen would do. He saw, experienced, spoke to others and reported honestly. For years lakhs of people have visited different RTOs across Goa. Of these thousands must have paid bribes to get their work done. We ask, did even one of them protest or lodge a vigilance and Lokayukta complaint when the open scam takes place in full public view daily. When we reported the story last week, the reactions from some quarters, mainly those well entrenched in the system and milking it dry, was almost as if we had committed the crime of disturbing an established order where everyone was benefitting.
Well, we are very satisfied, that we did that. But real satisfaction will come when every right thinking resident of Goa becomes a whistle blower against corruption. The bribe giver is as much a part of the unholy nexus of corruption entering into an illegal contract, to beat the system as the bribe taker is. And bribe giving needs to become a deterrent with heavy fines and enforcement, in order to destroy the system of bribe taking. For instance a petrol pump owner who pays heavy amounts in cash to a deputy collector, for licence renewals needs to be questioned and taken to task, as much as the Deputy Collector who was arrested with dirty cash in his pants.
Meanwhile we carried out another investigation in the border check posts where we found trucks laden with basalt (crushed stone) were passing into Goa from Karnataka, most of them without any passes certifying the payment of taxes and other fees applicable in Karnataka.
The RTO enforcement officers allow almost 40 of such trucks an hour to pass. Moreover there is a cess applicable to the transport of minor minerals (as basalt very much is), from outside the state, which is not paid to the Goa mining department. There are two issues here. Firstly, the crushed stone, from quarries in Karnataka is transported illegally, since no legal taxes/fees are paid to the Karnataka mining department. There are no passes with most truck drivers, to show proof of payment in Karnataka. In Goa, the mines department has so far lost crores in revenue because, though it lists basalt as a minor mineral, with royalty and dead rent rate mentioned on its website, the specific document which asks the Transport Department to enforce the collection of cess in minor minerals, at the check posts, does not list basalt as one of the minor minerals, for which cess has to be paid when transported from another state. And imagine how the transporters are making merry due to this lapse. And has the Mines department simply overlooked this or deliberately not disturbed the established order?
While the open corruption on the state’s borders, is not necessarily in the public eye isn’t is obvious that those in the real estate and construction business in Goa and who make use of the basalt are aware of how most of these trucks are transported illegally? And everyone turns a blind eye because no one wants to do this the right way since it’s simpler to pay bribes than pay legal fees to the state. This is no different from the illegal transportation of iron ore, which is the central to the illegal mining scam. And here both the mines and the transport department need to be accountable.
The Director Enforcement of the Transport Department, blatantly denied this occurrence of corruption while our team, sent again to the Keri check-post saw trucks passing through with no passes.
In the front page of our Saturday edition (July 15), we have made four points of suggestion how this scam can be busted. The Director Enforcement of the Transport Department, who denies the obvious, should respond to these suggestions and inform the people of Goa, through Herald, that he is serious about cracking this case.
We repeat our suggestions:- a) Goa Mines Department should ask Karnataka Mines Department to furnish the passes issued in the last one month, b) Goa Mines Department should also ask Karnataka Mines Department to furnish the passes issued in the last one month for basalt transportation. The Transport Department Goa can verify this against their entry books on the border check posts. c) The Mines Department should compare the details given by the Transport Department with that of the Karnataka Mines Department and d) The Mines Department Goa should also ask for CCTV footage of the border check-posts to study movement of each truck and the checking of passes.
But to do all that, Director Enforcement needs to admit honestly, what he knows is taking place. Action can follow only when there is admission of this blatant wrong doing. But we do know that the winds of change will blow only when everyone in Goa becomes a whistle blower. We need more whistle blowers, not enforcement directors.