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Toll tax bane for bus operators

Tapan Banerjee, secretary of Joint Council of Bus Syndicate points out that toll tax in all the toll plazas across Bengal has gone up since April.

Ashok Chatterjee | Kolkata |

The Joint Council of Bus Syndicate, a consortium of bus operators in Bengal, has written to the transport minister Firhad Hakim on Thursday demanding relief from the high toll taxes in the state. The toll taxes have been raised from April.

The bus operators are also demanding that the toll plazas should have service roads, as mandated by the central rules. They complain that most of the tollways do not have them, forcing them to pay the high toll. This, they say, is making a serious dent in their financial health.

Tapan Banerjee, secretary of Joint Council of Bus Syndicate points out that toll tax in all the toll plazas across Bengal has gone up since April. “Diesel is touching Rs 100, on the other hand the state is not increasing the fares. Owing to the twin setbacks, buses in the districts are going to shut operations soon. A bus in the district has to pay a daily toll of anywhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1,100, which is too high. We have also asked for service roads at plazas that we can ply without paying the toll.

Rahul Chatterjee of All Bengal Bus Minibus Samanway Samiti (ABBMSS) agrees that the situation is really bad for the bus owners in Bengal. The hike in toll taxes has made things worse.

“Toll taxes were not increased in the last two years due to the pandemic. This year, they have hiked it again. There is no parity in what they charge within the state, though there should be a common tax at all toll plazas since it is controlled by NHAI. At Sonapetya in East Midnapore buses registered in the district get 50 per cent off. At Dankuni toll plaza there is no concession. At Dhulagarh, they charge a certain fixed daily amount, irrespective of the number of trips, whereas in Jhargram, they give 50 per cent concession for vehicles registered in the district. We brought to the notice of the authorities in 2021 but there has been no change,” explained Chatterjee.

The police high-handedness has also been a major concern and ABBMSS has already written to the transport minister and the chief minister in the last week.

The Samiti has also asked for help from the government to convert their fleet to CNG. “We are interested in conversion. We asked for 80 per cent relief in the cost. For new vehicles we asked for 30 per cent relief,” said Chatterjee.