| Trucks stand in front of the FCI godown at BG Yard. File picture |
Feb. 4: Transportation of goods from the railway freight terminal at New Guwahati came to a halt after truck owners suspended operations last evening to protest against a hike in parking fees by the railway authorities.
The movement of goods from the freight terminal, popularly known as BG Yard, was stalled for more than 24 hours, as the standoff between the truck owners and the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) authorities over parking fees is yet to be resolved.
As the BG Yard Truck Owners’ Association accused NF Railway of arbitrarily increasing the parking fees, the railway authorities accused the truckers of refusing to pay the fees and of being high-handed.
The secretary of the BG Yard Truck Owners’ Association, Paresh Kalita, said they are not averse to paying parking fees, but the hike should be reasonable.
He said they were paying a parking fee of Rs 300 per truck per month but last month the railway authorities arbitrarily increased it to Rs 80 per truck per day (for eight hours) and Rs 20 per hour, which is exorbitant and unjustified.
The chief public relations officer of NFR, Situ Sing Hajong, denied the allegations and said it was the truckers who were at fault.
Hajong said there was no increase in the parking fee as claimed by the truckers and accused them of adopting a high-handed attitude.
“They simply don’t want to pay any parking fee, which can’t be accepted. Nowadays wherever you go, whether it is a shopping mall or somewhere else, you will have to pay a car parking fee and the same rule also applies to the freight terminal,” Hajong said.
Kalita, however, said they were paying parking fees of Rs 300 per month per truck for around one-and-a-half years till September last year when the NFR issued a notice inviting tenders for collection of parking fees from the BG Yard.
“In the notice, it was mentioned that whoever gets the contract will have to give Rs 1.67 crore to the railways, which means that the collector will have to collect more than Rs 1.67 crore as parking fee from the trucks in order to make a profit. If this happens, then we will have to pay parking fee far more than what we were paying, which is Rs 300 per month per truck,” Kalita said.
“We challenged the notice in Gauhati High Court and got an interim stay in October last year. However, the stay was vacated by the high court in November last year and gave railway the go head for tendering,” he said.
“The railways, however, started collecting the revised parking fee of Rs 80 per truck per day (for eight hours) and Rs 20 per hour, through its own staff from January 28 by citing the court order vacating the stay. The court had given railways the go ahead for tendering and not for collection of parking fee at the revised rate,” Kalita said.
He said they have suspended operations since yesterday and will continue till the railways come forward to find an amicable solution.
The truck owners’ association has around 600 members, who have nearly 800 trucks, which carry goods from the railway yard to different parts of the state.
The association today also submitted a memorandum to Kamrup (metro) deputy commissioner Ashutosh Agnihotri, seeking his intervention to resolve the impasse.