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Wednesday, Oct 13, 2004

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Coal merchants object to be called as C&F agents

Our Bureau

Kolkata , Oct. 12

THE Indian Coal Merchants' Association has sought a clarification from the Central Board of Excise & Customs on the matter relating to terming coal merchants as C&F (clearing & forwarding) agents, particularly when none of the clauses under the head `C&F agents' applies to them.

It is pointed out that coal merchants/coal-handling agents neither procure coal for their consumers with their own bank guarantees and do not pay railway freight nor involve themselves in any manner at any stage. In such a situation, the association pleads that they must not be insisted to pay service tax which the department is "reportedly'' demanding with retrospective effect from September 1999.

The association's President, Mr V.K. Arora, has made a statement requesting the Union Ministries of Finance, Coal and Railways to act jointly in order to remove certain hurdles faced by coal merchants who operate exclusively for non-core industries.

It is alleged that the number of weighbridges at Asansol, Bahula and Pandaveswar, which are owned and managed by Eastern Coalfields Ltd, are working erratically for quite some time and this acts against the interest of consumers. Because of manipulation of these weighbridges by a section of loading and railway staff in close connivance, consumers suffer from paying exorbitant penal freights for none of their faults. Mr Arora has said that the matter warrants immediate attention of the authorities.

He said that the association failed to understand why powerhouses must continue to be allowed to build up their coal stocks for 15 days of consumption. This has only allowed them to engage almost all coal carrying wagons, denying non-core industries to get the same.

He was of the view that the stock building exercise is an unnecessary practice when the Railways is equipped with a rapid coal transportation system to take coal to any part of the country within a week.

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