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With no govt bothering, extortion runs free on state’s highways

By EMN Updated: Feb 17, 2015 11:32 pm

Dimapur, February 17

Extortion on commercial vehicles continue uncheck along highways and check-gates in the lawless state of Nagaland in spite of a standing order of the government banning ‘collection of cash’ in the check-gate or in any part of the highway. The Gauhati High Court had also ordered prohibition of any organization from “collection of cash” along highways and market places.
Local activist organization, the Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organization (NVCO) called illegal the ‘collection of cash’ from commercial vehicles travelling on the state’s highways. Myriad organizations from both the civil populations and government agencies and departments including the Nagaland Police are extorting from the commercial vehicles, the NVCO stated in a press release issued to the media on Tuesday. The extortion is one of the biggest factors affecting price rise of essential commodities in the market especially those of household essentials and building materials. By hiking prices of goods, business owners try to compensate for the losses they incur from having paid the so-called “taxes” imposed by both legal and illegal, non-state actors.
“Collection of cash on highways and check-gates maintained by Nagaland Police is a menace to the society and for which civil societies and individuals raised their voice against the conduct of illegality. Considering the public hue and cry, the state government has issued orders and notifications to stop the menace…” the organization stated. As a result several organizations approached the Gauhati High Court challenging the Nagaland government’s orders by filing a writ petition.
Eleven writ petitions from groups representing the Petroleum and Land Transport Workers Federation of India, two(2) writ petitions of Dimapur Land Transport Workers Union, Dimapur District Autoriskshaw Drivers’ Union, Dimapur Motor Workers Trade Union, Dimapur Auto Riskshaw Owners’ Union, Dimapur Truck Drivers’ Union, Dimapur Truck Owners’ Associations and the Motor Workers Association had challenged the order.
Thankfully, on June 3 the Gauhati High Court dismissed the organizations’ writ petitions and disallowed them from collecting cash/contribution of any kind at check-gates and on any national/state highways. They were also prohibited by the high court from establishing any offices or counters along the highways.
The NVCO said that the high court offered protection to the state government’s orders.
The NVCO statement explained in one good length: “Besides the present writ petitions several writ petitions and several others by way of Civil Rule were filed before the court by unions/ associations/federations earlier. One of the main contentions of the unions/associations/federations in their operations is to protect the interest of its members.”
However, the NVCO stated, the “unions/associations/federations started collecting cash from national/state highways, market places and other busy public places, and that too, not for the purpose for which they come into existence but to extort money most illegally not only from the members but from public in general and drivers and owners of commercial vehicles in particular…”
The consumers’ organization has also reminded that Nagaland is now a state mushrooming with extortion by various organizations representing both public and government agencies. The trend has led to price-rise in the state, especially in the commercial city of Dimapur, where ineffective administration, poor policing and a tepid state government has helped turned the city into a criminal urban area.
“Many trucks coming from outside refused to enter Nagaland because of the forcible collection of ‘taxes’ at various-gates lying on national/state highways and there are numerous collection points at every conceivable corner in Dimapur including DMC toll tax counters where truck drivers are stopped and compelled to pay some amount. All these have only added to the cost of various items and the biggest loser of all is the end user, the poor and helpless consumer,” the NVCO reminded.
The state‘s police, a part of the disease
The NVCO also highlighted an ‘open secret’: the “illegal collection of cash” along highways by none other than personnel of the Nagaland police. The Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organization has appealed to the slumbering government of Nagaland, as well as the apathetic district administrations of Dimapur and Kohima to react to the menace being continually practiced at check-gates and highways.
“Of course passing orders is easier than enforcing it but when the enforcing agency is not doing on its part then it fails to achieve good governance on the part of authority. One of the major factor which fails to achieve good governance here is the enforcing agency itself is part of taking illegal cash i.e. Nagaland police at the check-gate,” the NVCO reminded.
The organization highlighted some of the most common ‘stories’ from the aggrieved parties: A truck driver complained to the NVCO that the Naga police at the check-gates complain when they offer less than Rs.50 per truck
“Instead of enforcing, the state government order dated 22.06.2009 in banning collection cash in the check-gates or in any part of the highways including government departments such as Police, Excise, Forest and Taxes department etc., the police at the check-gate play the major role where several groups including public organization collect their own shares taking advantage of vehicles being stopped at the check-gate,” the NVCO stated.
As recent as January this year, on January 27, there was an appeal in the media to stop illegal tax on Dimapur-Imphal taxis at the police check-gates, municipal councils, narcotic cell, excise department, several village toll tax and drivers’ union (Khuzama, Zakhama, Phesama, and Ghaspani groups), and Traffic police among others. The money ranges from Rs.30 to Rs.500, the NVCO lamented.
“The Rs.100 was shown against all police check gates and the highest was the Rs.500 each against Traffic Police Dimapur parking tax collection and Bus Union Dimapur,” the organization added.

By EMN Updated: Feb 17, 2015 11:32:15 pm