TWO WHEELERS in India often carry much more weight than they are supposed to. But in parts of Assam they have been carrying such enormous loads as to be eligible for transport subsidy from the government! The North East Industrial Policy in its latest avatar unveiled last year provides a package of fiscal incentives for various industries located in the eight "special" states (Sikkim included) of the region.
It gives concessions such as 100 per cent excise duty and income tax exemption, capital investment subsidy and, importantly, 90 per cent transport subsidy for raw materials brought by trucks from any point outside the northeast to the industry site. Three flourmills in Upper Assam's Dibrugarh district - Rajdhani, Ganpati and Vinayak Flour Mills - used this last concession to claim Rs 6.35 crore from the state's Industry department for wheat they claimed they had been bringing into the region from outside the region since 2004.
What the claim papers did not mention was that the bulk of wheat (between 255 and 280 quintals) was transported on two-wheelers and small cars. The registration numbers of the vehicles reportedly used, recorded in the papers submitted, when checked out showed that they belonged to scooters, motorbikes and small cars!
The anomaly came to light after Dibrugarh-based student leader Subhash Dutta moved a RTI petition following complaints he had received from fair price shops and rural cooperative societies to say that they were not getting their quota of rationed wheat under the public distribution system (PDS).
It is well known that flourmills across the North East divert PDS wheat for sale as flour in the open market. "The documents received from the industry and transport departments reveal that three flour mills hardly procured any wheat for general consumption.
This could just be the tip of the iceberg," Dutta told HT from Dibrugarh. "There may be more flourmills involved in the same racket.
" The three flourmills named refused to take calls despite repeated attempts to contact them. Key officials in the industry department, who passed their papers, were also unavailable for comment.
Industry captains of the region said the some 'black sheep' were making a mockery of the transport subsidy scheme.