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Income-tax sleuths on alert to curb flow of black money
April, 22nd 2014

The Income Tax (IT) department has put in place an elaborate machinery—quick response team (QRT), mobile surveillance teams (MSTs) and a control room—to curb the flow of black money during Lok Sabha elections. The department is also keeping vigil at airports, helipads and railway stations to check inflow of money.

The initiative was first put in place during last year's assembly polls in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

In addition to the election machinery and the IT department, agencies like the state excise and enforcement directorate (ED) are also tracking movement of foreign currency and liquor. Officials, however, admit that despite these measures, it is not possible to completely check unaccounted cash being used to bribe voters, as offenders had the ability "to improvise and be a step ahead of enforcement agencies".

Sanjay Kumar, IT department's nodal officer for the elections and additional director of Income Tax (investigations), said that by last mid-week, the department had received around 15 cases from the police and around 60 cases had been registered by the air intelligence unit (AIU) in Mumbai. They have also seized around Rs 1 crore in cash, but around 95% of it belongs to jewellers who wanted to use it in their business.

"Once the police detect cash, they investigate it. If the cash belongs to a candidate or political party or is being carried to bribe voters or is the proceed of a crime, then they will seize it. After investigations, if the police find that the money is not related to these activities, then they inform us if the yield is over Rs 10 lakh to find out if it has been accounted for or unexplained," said Kumar.

"We have been roped in to immobilize cash. The person carrying unaccounted cash may be carrying it to hand it over to somebody to bribe (voters) even if he may not be doing it himself," he added.
The ECI also has expenditure observers, who along with the other poll-related machinery, keep a track on candidates to see if they are exceeding spending limits.

However, the control room (1800-220-115) set up by the IT department has received just one complaint from the public, which after investigation was revealed to be false.

Apart from QRTs, which comprise officers and inspectors, in six constituencies, the IT department has also set up mobile surveillance teams (MSTs) in each constituency. These teams are expected to react quickly on a real-time basis to verify if the cash seized is accounted for.

The AIU at the airport is always on guard, and the Juhu aerodrome and helipads like those at Mahalaxmi and Kalina are also under surveillance. The railway intelligence unit (RIU) is keeping a watch on any movement of cash at CST, Lokmanya Tilak Terminus (Kurla) and Mumbai Central with two IT inspectors posted at the baggage screening units for immediate action in case cash is detected.

"Can't say cash movement has been completely stopped. There is considerable slowdown, however," said Kumar, adding that money carriers (angadiyas) were lying low.

According to Kumar even people who conduct their business in cash like those in construction industry (for paying labourers) and goat sellers from Rajasthan, should keep documents like cash receipts, PAN cards, authority letter, bank statements and cash book balance with them.

The IT department control room can be contacted on 1800-220-115.

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