January 13, 2004
The wait to buy stamp paper is cruelly long for 76-year-old M.K. Trivedi at the General Stamp Paper Office here.
For hours, a long line of people stretches out under the sun near the steps of the Asiatic Library. Like Trivedi, they are tired and their lips parched. And they mutter curses about a Mr Telgi.
‘‘I’ve come to buy just one stamp paper worth Rs 300, so I can complete a bank loan formality,’’ remarks the septuagenarian. ‘‘But looking at the queues, I guess I’ll be here till evening.’’
Following the Telgi fake stamp paper scandal, the state government cancelled the licences of the city’s 40 authorised stamp vendors from January 1. Now stamp paper can be bought only at the Stamp Paper Office at Fort, or at the Bombay High Court and City Civil and Sessions Court counters.
‘‘The whole system stinks of the Telgi aftermath,’’ says Vineet Kanchan, in-charge of the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha’s (BJYM) Legal Cell. ‘‘The government has become over-cautious. But why should innocent people suffer standing like this for four or five hours on the road?’’ she questions.
On Saturday, BJYM activists urged Mumbai’s Superintendent of Stamps, Annasaheb Misal, to open more stamp paper counters — at police stations.
‘‘Yes, we know policemen have been arrested in the Telgi scam, but the entire force can’t be bad,’’ remarks BJYM general secretary Niranjan Shetty. ‘‘The state can ease the situation by selling stamp paper in banks, police stations and even post offices, with foolproof security arrangements.’’
While Stamps Superintendent Misal had reportedly gone on ‘‘long leave’’, Deputy Superintendent S.C. Shirke said the BJYM’s request would be considered. ‘‘We’re trying our best to end the long queues by opening three more sales counters — so now we have a total of seven,’’ he said.
But that’s a far cry from before. There were nearly 300 licensed stamp sellers in Mumbai in 1995-96, each earning a 3 per cent commission on sales.
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