Malda, Dec. 13: Work at income-tax offices across north Bengal have come to a standstill since yesterday following a cease-work resorted to by the employees to protest against the death of one of their colleagues in Jalpaiguri.
Allegations of misbehaviour and corruption have been levelled against two senior officers, who have been blamed for the death of Lopsong Bhutia. The Income Tax Officers' Association has demanded a high-level inquiry into Bhutia's death.
Bhutia, who worked at the Malda income tax office, had reportedly been summoned to Jalpaiguri for an urgent meeting on December 8. The 35-year-old man, who attended the meeting the next day, was reportedly abused for not giving in to the whims of senior officers.
According to association members, additional income tax commissioner S.K. Singh and tax recovery officer Bhanu Pratap Mondal had asked Bhutia to go through the existing files and find out 'if more tax could be realised' from people who have already paid their income taxes.
A stressed-out Bhutia felt chest pain soon after the meeting. He was removed to a local nursing home where he died the next day. A resident of Darjeeling, Bhutia has a two-month-old baby.
Though Singh was unavailable, Mondol said: 'I can't say anything since I am on sick leave. As for Singh, he has taken charge only two months ago and is based in Siliguri.'
Employees and officers of the department were found on the office campus here wearing black badges. One of them said Bhutia was a 'gentleman in the true sense of the term'.
Bhutia had joined the department in 1995 and was posted at the Malda office for the first time in 2003.
According to sources, the realisation of income tax had crossed Rs 6 crore last year. But this time it has not yet reached the Rs 3 crore mark.
Secretary of the Income Tax Officers' Association Mihir Banerjee said: 'We are terribly upset by Bhutia's death. He had told his colleagues that he was not being able to cope with the pressure any more.'
The news release of the association stated: 'It is learnt that of late the officer was in tremendous mental tension due to compulsion of referring one case of assessment, which he had completed for action under Section 263 on very very flimsy ground in the course of review of his assessment work by the CIT.'
Banerjee said they have submitted a memorandum to the commissioner in this regard.
'We have been observing a non-co-operation movement for the past two days. I don't know where it will end. But everybody is disturbed over the way the authorities were creating mental pressure on officers and employees.'
Secretary of the district Income Tax Bar Association Mohammed Selim said the authorities were forcing employees and officers to realise more tax from those who had already paid their taxes. 'But surprisingly, they are ignoring those who are evading taxes,' he added.
Another lawyer Kasturi Chatterjee said: 'We are ashamed by the way the department is realising taxes from citizens. They are not keen on keeping track of persons who do not pay taxes, rather they are concentrating on people who actually have files (that is, those who have paid their taxes).'