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Probe Punjab 'cable mafia,' demands minister, Fastway refutes charges

MUMBAI: Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu has alleged that the private TV cable company Fastway Transmission Private Limited, under the "patronage" of the previous Akali government, had caused a loss of around Rs 6840 million to the state exchequer. Because of the political patronage, only Fastway monopolised the cable TV business in Punjab, he said, PTI reported.

The state government last Friday ordered a tax evasion notice to be slapped on the Fastway Cable which is said to be Punjab's biggest TV transmission multi-system operator (MSO). FastWay, however, rejecting the charges, said that the company had permissions from all the departments concerned such as PWD, forest department, canal department, and railways etc. :The company is regular in payment of entertainment tax and there are no outstanding taxes due to tax theft by the company, Fastway CEO Peeush Mahajan said in a statement.

Sidhu meanwhile demanded a separate investigation into the alleged under-reporting of TV connections and cable operators engaged by Fastway. Of over 8,000 cable operators in the state, 6,500 were working for Fastway, he alleged. He demanded vigilance inquiry from the chief minister Amarinder Singh against what he called the “cable mafia”.

The local bodies minister said Fastway started with a paid-up capital of Rs 25 lakh, but earned a whopping Rs 30 crore profit in the first year itself. He alleged that only 1.25 lakh cable connections were shown in Punjab state as against the actual figure of 80 lakh -- this was done to evade taxes, PTI added.

For 10 years, the state exchequer did not get even a penny in taxes, he said. No fee or tax was paid to the civic authorities, no entertainment tax was paid to the state or the Central government, he alleged. It is a unique case where the ruling family violated all government rules, he said in the state assembly.

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 Rs one million, and so were are exempt from paying service tax, he added. "The entertainment tax at the rate of Rs 15,000 that the government alleged we did not pay, is payable by cable operators, and not by MSOs like us," Kohli said.

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