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All-women CBEC team hoping to make difference in indirect tax collections
August, 04th 2012

Male officials in the Customs department are a worried lot these days. And, the reason is not all that commonplace. For the first time, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) is set to be an all-women Board with Praveen Mahajan taking over as the acting chairperson on Wednesday, and would soon be assisted by six other members, all women. The government is pinning high hopes as the Board will be responsible for mopping up Indirect Tax revenue to the tune of Rs 5 lakh crore estimated for 2012-13.

The CBEC comes under the revenue department in the finance ministry and formulates policy concerning levy of Customs, Central Excise and service tax duties, prevention of smuggling and administration of these matters. Intelligence agencies such as the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) report to the CBEC. Besides some narcotics agencies and the Central Economic Intelligence Bureau are manned by Customs officers.

The all-ladies Board will consist of Praveen Mahajan, who has taken over from S K Goel and whose appointment as the chairperson is likely to be notified soon; Shiela Sangwan, currently member, Service Tax; Sreela Ghosh, member, Excise; Shanti Sundaram, member, Legal; and only male official in the Board is M S Badhan, who is member, Customs, and is likely to move to the Settlement Commission after retirement. The sixth position of a member is still vacant.

With promotion of Mahajan as the chairperson and Badhan retiring from the Board, three vacancies need to be filled up. Sources said names of three officers have already been sent to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet for approval - all of them are women Customs officers from the Indian Revenue Service (IRS).

The three officers being considered as members in the CBEC are Sandhya Baliga, currently director general of HRD; Shobha Chari, chief commissioner of Mumbai-1 and Lipika Majumdar, chief commissioner in Ahmedabad.

All officers currently holding important portfolios in the Board situated at North Block, the seat of finance ministry are known in their department as hard taskmasters.

Mahajan, the acting chairperson, herself had during her previous stints handled organizations such as the DRI as additional director-general and later as the director-general of the DGCEI. She was also the brain behind cracking down on several important anti-evasion and smuggling cases involving duties worth hundreds of crores. The most infamous imported car scam of 2005 was busted during her tenure with the DRI.

Prior to assuming responsibilities as member in CBEC, Sreela Ghosh was heading the Delhi Customs (Preventive) Commissionerate, situated at the New Customs House at the IGI Airport and had under her charge the entire northern region, including Delhi, Punjab and J&K, for keeping close watch on anti-smuggling activities along the Indo-Pak border.

The Central Board of Direct Taxes another Board under the revenue department will also be headed by a woman officer Poonam Kishore Saxena, who will be responsible for administering direct taxes.

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