Lockdown: Tax and fee relief for private buses
The Bengal government on Thursday waived all taxes for bus and minibus owners till September 30 and the annual permit fee, which together will provide a relief of around Rs 5,000 for each vehicle.
The waiver, with retrospective effect from April 1, came at a time operators of private buses and minibuses have been reeling from the twin blows of a steep hike in the diesel price and a sharp drop in the passenger count because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The state cabinet at its meeting at Nabanna on Thursday decided that private bus and minibus operators would not have to pay any tax under the West Bengal Motor Vehicles Act 1979 from April 1 to September 30. They have also been exempted from paying the permit fee this year.
If a bus or a minibus owner wants to clear his pending dues till March 31, he or she can do so by August 31 without inviting any penalty for the delay.
“We had proposed a relief of Rs 15,000 for bus operators. They (bus operators) gave us this particular proposal. The finance department has accepted it. We have decided to replace the earlier offer with this,” chief minister Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday.
Earlier, the chief minister had proposed a grant of Rs 15,000 to 6,000 buses each for three months from July. Mamata had met represen-tatives of the operators at Nabanna on June 26, before announcing the dole, which she said would cost the state exchequer Rs 27 crore.
The amount was expected to cushion the financial blow suffered by the operators and enable them to run buses at current fares.
The operators refused to accept the offer saying the figure 6,000 (bus count) was discriminatory. Almost all urged the government to revise fares, which they said would be a lasting solution to their problem.
Of the 21,000-odd private buses across Bengal, around 7,000 used to ply in Calcutta and its adjoining areas before the lockdown was imposed in March.
Almost all operators have been battling financial distress since the diesel price started soaring. In Calcutta, diesel sold at Rs 77.06 a litre on Thursday, up by Rs 11.44 a litre since June. Most operators said fuel comprised almost 60 per cent of their expenditure and the escalating price of diesel had created a problem whose only solution was a fare hike.
Private bus operators said they had long been demanding relief in some form from the government. “Only 40 per cent of the buses are plying. Bus owners are struggling to pay EMIs and arrange money for other regular expenses. Even a small relief is a big help for us,” said Tapan Bandyopadhayay, of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates.
Transport department officials said a six-month waiver of road tax would help operators save Rs 2,800 for each vehicle. If other taxes are combined, the relief would come to around Rs 5,000 for each bus.
“What if someone has already paid a quarterly tax? Will he be eligible for additional relief?” asked Rahul Chatterjee, of the All Bengal Bus Minibus Samanoy Samity.