Scatmag.com

July 2017

FASTWAY TO BE PROBED BY GOVT


Speaking in the state Assembly, Punjab minister for Local Bodies, Navjot Singh Sidhu alleged that a private TV cable company (Fastway Transmissions Pvt. Ltd), under the 'patronage' of the previous Akali government, caused a loss of nearly ₹ 700 crore to the state exchequer.


25L EARNS 30 CR IN 1 YR

The Minister said the company started with a paid up capital of ₹ 25 lakh, but earned a whopping ₹ 30 crore profit in the first year itself! "Making so much profit in such a short time out of a small capital is a feat which deserves to be registered in the Guinness Book of World Records," Sidhu said. He alleged that only 1.25 lakh cable connections were shown in entire Punjab as against actual 80 lakh. "This was done to evade taxes," he said.



ALLEGATIONS AGAINST FASTWAY BY MINISTER SIDHU

♣ Patronage By Akali Govt.

♣ ₹ 30 Cr Profit In 1 Year On 0.25 Cr Capital

♣ Monopolised 6500 Cable Ops Out of 8,000 Cable Ops

♣ ₹ 25 Cr Service Tax Evasion

♣ ₹ 185 Cr Entertainment Tax Due

♣ No Permission Or Fees Paid To Lay Cables On Poles & Govt land

♣ ₹ 700 Cr Loss To State







AKALI GOVT SUPPORT

"The company's business flourished because of the patronage given to them by the previous Akalis. It is a unique case where the ruling family violated all government rules and supervised loss of hundreds of crores of rupees to the state revenue," he said in the state Assembly.

"An estimated ₹ 700 crore loss has been caused to the state exchequer," he alleged.



CABLE MONOPOLY IN 1 YEAR

Sidhu said out of over 8,000 cable operators in the state, 6,500 were under the company. Sidhu said that because of the political patronage during the erstwhile Akali regime, only one company monopolised the cable TV business in the state.

Unconfirmed reports have, in the past, alleged that even the local police were used to pressurise independent MSOs and their LCOs to shift to Fastway.

Other allegations by observers include violation of the freedom of the press. Atleast 1 Delhi based news channel was abruptly pulled off the network (and effectively throughout most of Punjab) when it carried reports critical of the Akali Dal government. The channel had a valid carriage contract, and appealed to the TDSAT. It was restarted on the network, but with the audio of a cartoon channel! Fastway claimed it was a technical error, but was fined by the TDSAT.


NOTICE TO FASTWAY

He said the Local Bodies Department has started serving notices to the company for recovery of charges pertaining to use of electricity poles, digging of roads for laying the cables and towards entertainment tax.


₹ 250 CR SERVICE TAX

Sidhu said service tax department has issued notice for ₹ 250 crore as outstanding amount the company owes.


₹ 185 CR ENT TAX

No tax or fees was being paid to the civic authorities, no entertainment tax was being paid to the state or the Central government, the minister added.

"Entertainment tax evasion worth ₹ 185 crore which they owe to the Punjab government has come to the fore," he added.


NO PERMISSION OR RENT FOR CABLES

"No permission for laying cable above or under the ground was taken by the company, this also poses a threat to national security.

"Cables were laid on the land of Nagar Nigam, on National highways, railway land, forest department land. But they have not sought permission. They owe rent for hanging cables on thousands of electric poles throughout the state," he said.

"Whatever is related to my departments, I will take stern action and recommend a vigilance probe in the entire episode to the chief minister," Sidhu said.

Sidhu sought an FIR against the company for laying wires without permission.

He also demanded vigilance inquiry from Chief Minister Amarinder Singh against the "cable mafia".

Supporting Sidhu, ruling Congress members sought a time-bound inquiry into the entire episode.


FASTWAY REFUTES CHARGES

Fastway MD Gurdeep Singh Kohli said the allegations of tax dues or under-reporting subscriber base were false.

Most of the cable operators fall in the income bracket of less than ₹ 10 Lakhs, so were are exempt from paying service tax, he added. "The entertainment tax at the rate of ₹ 15,000 that the government alleged we did not pay, is payable by cable operators, and not by MSOs like us," Kohli clarified to the press. n