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Transfer scam ruins pitch for big game

New Delhi, May 23: The sensational case of a minister’s aide, R. Perumalswamy, caught accepting a bribe from an Indian Revenue Service official to fix a transfer is only a little slip that has shown up in a game where the stakes can get a lot higher.

Big money was waiting to be thrown on the board when later this month, chief commissioners and commissioners of income-tax were due for transfer.

This is unlikely to happen now that the scandal has erupted.

The asking rate for a plum posting for a chief commissioner can be as high as Rs 1.5 crore. Even to get posted to a “dumping ground” like Calcutta, officers are asked to shell out up to Rs 10 lakh.

Posting and transfer decisions are taken by the finance minister and the minister of state for revenue (Gingee Ramachandran held this post before he resigned today after the scandal).

But the duo depends largely on profile inputs provided by the Central Board of Direct Taxes.

Anurag Vardhan, the man who was paying the bribe to Ramachandran’s first personal assistant Perumalswamy, wanted to be a deputy commissioner at Mumbai.

Postings and transfers of officials below the rank of commissioner are done by the Central Board of Direct Taxes and ministers of state or their staff can merely request the board for a favour to a favourite.

This is what Ramachandran emphasised today while announcing his resignation. He said transfers were decided under a well-formulated policy in which as a minister he had no role.

“I had never interfered in favour of anybody for undue advantage,” he said.

Maybe. But money does change hands for even middle- and junior-level postings. Most often it is paid to board officials or their middlemen.

The rates range up to Rs 5 lakh for Mumbai for deputy and assistant commissioners, going up to Rs 10 lakh for joint commissioners.

The Intelligence Bureau and the CBI have been tracking the cases of the 54 deputy and assistant commissioners whose postings were stayed yesterday, for a month.

These dossiers have already been handed over by deputy Prime Minister .K. Advani to finance minister Jaswant Singh.

Dossiers prepared by the IB say many of the officers have questionable bona fide and a few are not yet eligible for transfer. Many, however, have clean records.

According to IB officers, the bribe is not always paid by the revenue officials themselves, but is provided by corporate houses who need their men in the “right” places.

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