Chandigarh, Aug 2 : Punjab Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Wednesday said that there was massive corruption in the Punjab cable TV industry during the previous regime which caused losses worth thousands of crores to the state exchequer.
He added that the Congress government would break the monopoly of a company that thrived during the 10-year rule of the Shiromani Akali Dal government (2007-2017) in the state.
“The Punjab Government is committed to break the monopoly situation and to create level playing field in Cable TV industry. The long and sordid saga of corruption by the previous regime would now be taken to its logical conclusion,” Local Government and Culture Minister Sidhu told media here.
Supreme Court lawyer Vineet Bhagat, who addressed the media with Sidhu and other officials, said that the previous state government had made special concessions for the Fastway Cable company by amending tax provisions.
“In 1995, the Entertainment Tax in Punjab was Rs 50 per television. But the previous government amended the provisions to keep Fastway out of the tax net and imposed a meagre tax of Rs 15,000 per annum on the proprietors of the Cable TV network,” Bhagat said.
“Calculating the impact of the loss of revenue to the government, taking into account a conservative figure of 40 lakh connections of Fastway, as mentioned in the report of Competition Commission of India of 2012, it would come to Rs 1,440 crore.”
“Instead of finding its way to the government exchequer, the money was diverted to the pockets of private persons. This is a conservative figure for tax loss impact from 2010 to 2016. This is only a tip of the iceberg, while the actual figure may go up to Rs 20,000 crore,” Bhagat alleged.
He further claimed that to discourage direct to home service and to make it uncompetitive, a tax of 10 per cent was levied on DTH services by the SAD government.
Sidhu alleged that the Fastway Cable owners even failed to deposit the meagre annual tax of Rs 15,000 to the government, but no action was taken.
Despite having more than 80 lakh connections today, they have grossly under declared their connectivity at about 24 lakh connections to TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) and continue to short change the government and the regulator, Sidhu said.