Deferment of E-way bill system: ‘Incorrect estimation of load caused glitch on February 1’

The National Informatics Centre (NIC), which has developed the software for issuance of electronic permits for inter-state transportation of goods under the GST regime — or e-way bill — is reviewing the software after the system witnessed glitches on February 1 when the facility was to be rolled out but got deferred. The reason for glitches, according to a senior NIC official, was that the estimation of the expected load was erroneous.

“Glitches happened because the load which we saw on February 1 was multi-fold than what was estimated and planned for. Systems, essentially, could not take that. The load estimation exercise was not well done,” the official said, adding that NIC was conducting the entire load-testing exercise again, and is yet to ascertain whether its existing network infrastructure would be able to handle the traffic or not.

Notably, states have been conducting trials for issuance of e-way bills for intra-state movement of goods since September last year with Karnataka being the first state to do so. This was followed by Rajasthan, Uttarakhand and Kerala. Six more states — Haryana, Bihar, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Sikkim and Jharkhand — started trial runs for e-way bills last month. The GST Council, in its meeting on December 16, had approved February 1, 2018 as the date for mandatory e-way bill rollout for inter-state movement of goods, as against the earlier proposed April 1 deadline. However the implementation was postponed due to the said glitches.

“If it can be handled it through our existing infrastructure, the updated system can be up within two weeks. But if there is requirement for additional infrastructure, then we will have to take a call whether to do it in two stages — inter-state at first, then intra-state. But final call will be taken by the GST Council. NIC will send the final statistics about this to the Council within the next one week,” the official said.

The GST Council had also approved early implementation of the e-way bill system and decided on rolling out the system on a voluntary basis for use by trade and transporters from January 16. During the trial runs, 2.84 lakh permits were issued on the portal. The Council approved June 1 as the deadline for both inter-state and intra-state movement of goods. States have the option to choose their own deadlines for the implementation of the e-way bill for intra-state movement of goods before June 1, 2018.

According to sources, along with inter-state e-way bill generation by all states which went live on February 1, 17 states also started generating such permits for intra-state movement of goods, which created pressure on the portal. “For GST, the load on network will increase one day in a month. But for e-way bill, the load will be there daily, especially between 4pm to 8pm because that is when all the trucks are leaving and the transporters log-in to get the e-way bills,” the NIC official said.

The industry, while pointing out that the e-way bill system could check tax evasion to some extent, it would also add another layer of compliances for GST payers and, in case of technical glitches such as this one, may result in supply chain bottlenecks.

Speaking to The Indian Express in an interview on February 2, Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had said about the e-way bill system glitches: “If we have so far waited for six months, we will wait for five to ten days more. We don’t want to trouble the traders because of our fault, so we have admitted that it is because of technological glitches and we will correct it and come back. So we have given some more time”.

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