Smugglers have it easy crossing State borders with basalt stones; In a day hundreds of trucks filled with basalt enter the State in connivance with the authorities
KERI: Staff of the State Transport Department receive bribes to turn a blind eye to the rampant smuggling of basalt stone into the State. The modus operandi is clear, blatant and visible to anyone who spend time on the border and watches carefully and asks a few questions
The operation takes place at Chorla Ghat with the Keri check post as the point of entrance into Goa. For a day this week, Herald observed the movement of basalt trucks while spending time at a crusher site as the trucks moved from Jamboti to Keri.
Herald also watched as the trucks moved through the Ghat section of Chorla which is in the Western Ghats in Sattari.
The growing number of infrastructure projects in the State has led to a rise in the demand for basalt stone, leading to the emergence of dozens of suppliers in Goa who receive this crushed stone from Jamboti in Belgaum.
The trucks usually halt on the road side of the ghat section of Chorla and at a particular time they all pass through the State border. These truckers get 10 meters of basalt stone which is basically used for all concrete and tarring works.
The Herald team, posing as civil contractors in need of the stones, spoke to some of the drivers, who revealed they did not pay any challan on an invoice raised by the Karnataka government or any transport cess to the Goa government
The drivers revealed they pay Rs 50 at the Karnataka check post and Rs 150 at the Goa border check post at Keri to the RTO staff posted there. The driver said that their bosses – the big transport contractors – were also paying a fixed amount to higher ups every month depending upon the number of trucks they owned.
This trade, they said, was not new as it was going on for a few months now. Goa is not only losing revenue, due to the non-payment of cess and other taxes but so too is Karnataka.
Inquiries at the Goa Mines Department revealed that a truck carrying any minor mineral should have an invoice showing tax paid to the Karnataka State Mines Department. The enforcing agency is the Transport Department at the Goa border, officers of the Mines Department said.
By a notification in 2013 the Mines Department has handed over the responsibility of checking invoices, which in Karnataka is called a pass, to the Transport Department. If the truckers do not have the invoice then RTO is empowered to seize the vehicle and inform Goa Mines Department.
Far from seizing vehicles, Herald found that the trucks were not even checked and truck drivers were paying bribes to the staff at the check post on duty.
Herald saw that within half an hour 20 trucks crossed the Keri check post into Goa. The Transport Department officials received Rs 6000 per hour as a bribe to allow the smuggling of basalt. If the truck plies for 10 hours a day that bribe amount adds upto Rs 60,000 per day.
The basalt-laden trucks start from Jamboti and after crossing the Goa border at Keri are diverted to Honda from Morlem village. From Honda the full with basalt reach Ponda and other parts of Goa bypassing main towns and cities.
The take away from the Herald investigation were these 1)There is no enforcement of rules at the border check posts, amounting to allowing 400 trucks carrying basalt (crushed stone) (40 trucks in 10 hours) 2) The cess and taxes due to the Goa government not collected 3) With CCTV camera recording each truck passing the border, it is easy to track which trucks have the relevant papers and invoices. But no checks have been done.