Owners of school buses have appealed to the Bengal government to waive road tax and penalties for late payment of permit fees and renewal of fitness certificates till June to help them tide over the financial crisis triggered by the pandemic.
In a letter to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday, contract carriage owners and operators have appealed for the waiver saying their businesses have been severely hit as schools are closed and the vehicles are languishing in garages.
The state government has been offering relaxation in payment of taxes and penalties for late payments on several heads to owners of commercial vehicles, including buses, minibuses, school buses and pool car owners during the Covid pandemic.
The waivers ended on December 31.
“As contract carriage operators, we have to pay an annual road tax of around Rs 18,000. How will we pay this? We have no source of income since buses stopped moving out of garages,” said Himadri Ganguly, general secretary of the West Bengal Contract Carriage Owners and Operators Association.
“All forms of relaxations and waivers offered by the government ended last year. While buses have resumed operations, we are still shut.”
There are around 4,000 school bus operators in Kolkata and its adjoining areas. They ferry students of different schools, which have outsourced the service to contractors or agencies. A handful of schools still run their own buses.
After remaining shut for months, schools in Bengal had reopened their gates for students of Classes IX to XII in November, only to close down again on January 3 following a renewed surge in Covid cases.
School bus operators said there was hardly any business during the brief period the schools were open as only a handful of students opted for buses.
“We are ready to pay the permit fee and the fee for renewal of the fitness certificate. But there can be a delay on our part because our bank balance is depleting fast. A day's delay of payment attracts a fine of Rs 50 and it keeps compounding,” said the owner.
Transport department officials said discussions were on about a proposal to extend the waivers.
“A policy can't be drawn up just for contract carriage owners alone. It has to cover all segments. We have received similar appeals from a section of private bus owners, too,” said an official in the transport department.