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Take high road, pay annual tax

Getting to your destination faster, thanks to a flyover' Getting stuck in traffic longer, thanks to a flyover' Either way, get ready to pay a fee — for your flight of fun or your grumble on the ground.

Barely six months after substantially hiking road tax and imposing penalties for traffic-rule violations, the cash-strapped government is all set to introduce a ‘flyover tax’ for all vehicles, except buses and minibuses, plying in Calcutta and Howrah.

A sum of Rs 500 will be collected from each vehicle as an annual flyover tax. The transport department intends to raise about Rs 600 crore as flyover fee over a period of five years.The government is likely to announce a formal decision soon, and impose the new tax from the New Year.

But the road ahead is rocky. If the Bengal Taxi Association has threatened not to pay the tax, the Automobile Association of Eastern India (AAEI) intends to move court. “Whenever the government faces a financial crunch, it targets vehicle-owners. But has there been any improvement in the condition of roads' If the government goes ahead with the move, we have no option but to seek legal protection,” said AAEI secretary P.K. Mullick.

Transport minister Subhas Chakraborty said the sole purpose behind imposition of the new tax was to repay the loan received from the Japanese Bank for International Cooperation for the construction of four flyovers in the city.

“We are spending several crores for constructing the flyovers and other infrastructure projects. How can we repay the loan if we do not levy fresh taxes'” he demanded.

“We had earlier decided to charge toll tax from vehicle-owners using 20 new bridges and flyovers, including Vidyasagar Setu. However, as collection of toll tax from vehicles on the flyovers will cause immense traffic problems, we have opted for a system of levying an annual tax. This will work out cheaper than the current rate of toll tax,’’ assured the minister.

The owner of a medium-sized vehicle crossing Vidyasagar Setu once a week now has to cough up Rs 1,920 annually. “The same person will be in a position to use all flyovers in Calcutta and Howrah by paying just Rs 500 a year,” explained Chakraborty.

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