Thiruvananthapuram: If finance minister Dr T. M. Thomas Isaac is no more enthusiastic about Corruption-free Walayar, a project he had successfully implemented during his last tenure, it is not because he has suddenly got cold feet about cleaning up the “bribe-taking dens”. Fact is, with the arrival of GST, these dens will cease to exist the way we know them.
“Once GST is in place there will be no entry tax or advance tax, and therefore no bribes, to collect at these check-posts as the invoice has to be raised, and e-filed, even before the transportation of goods begins,” Dr Isaac said. Never-ending queues of goods-laden heavy vehicles blocked at the border for days will also be a thing of the past. Sales tax staff will be pulled out of the state’s 84 check-posts, but these border posts will not be left deserted. “I will convert them into surveillance centres,” the minister said.
His plan is to position surveillance cameras atop the check-post buildings to cover all the entry points into the state. “Any goods vehicle that crosses the border into the state will be caught on camera, and its registration number noted. The computer will then try to match the number with an existing invoice in the GST Network. If there is no match it means that the vehicle has got in illegally. Alerts will be quickly sent to police stations across the state to stop and search the vehicle,” Isaac said. Border surveillance is Isaac’s way of tackling his concern that a ‘check-post’-free border will throw open the inter-state roads for the free flow of evasion-prone goods like timber, granite and spirit. Isaac will unveil his surveillance plan in the Budget he will present on March 3. “Surveillance is a cost-effective way of monitoring goods movement in a post-‘check-post’ era. At the most we will have to spend Rs 20 crore to set up the surveillance mechanism in all the 84 check-posts,” the minister said. According to Mr Syam, a senior tax official working on developing the GST Network, intermittent random checks by “mobile flying squads” is the strategy envisaged under GST to deter illegal activities.