The announcement made by the Maharashtra government on its decision to increase the toll tax for heavy vehicles on 15 roads under the Public Works Department’s jurisdiction has been met with strong dissent by transporters across Maharastra.
The increase is proposed to be around 10 per cent which is less than the toll tax on national highways, as per an official statement by the government.
Cars, jeeps, State Transport (ST) and school buses and light vehicles will continue to be exempted.
At present, these vehicles are exempted from paying on 15 PWD roads where private contractors collect toll tax. Because of the exemption, the government has to pay ₹350-400 crore as compensation to these contractors every year, the statement said.
“Instead of giving this compensation in cash, the government decided to increase the toll tax (for heavy vehicles),” it said.
However, this has become a major reason of distress for transporters who believe that the 10% toll tax will be a hammering blow for the industry that is already reeling under the crises of the year.
According to Chirag Katira, General Secretary (Maharashtra) at All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC), this has added to the woes of the transporters who are yet to overcome the crisis of the road sector due to the year. With imposed lockdowns, constant increase in diesel prices and the hammering blow of the pandemic leading to truck standstill across the country, the news of the 10% tax imposition comes as a major setback for the transporters fraternity, some of whom are still running in losses.
“COVID is not over, transportation industry has not revived, 10 lakh trucks across the country are still on a standstill while 20% of the trucks in Maharashtra are in standstill in the state of Maharashtra itself. We are already starting to see states starting the second phase of the Lockdown”, he said while referring to Ahmedabad that recently imposed a three-day lockdown.
According to Mr Katira, the 10% tax will not be borne by the customers. Thus, ultimately these costs will have to be incurred by the transporters. “Our customers will not accept it; thus this is an add-on cost for the transporters. A lot of people have not been able to make any profits and due to the pressure, people are exiting the business”, Mr Katira said.
Transporters still have not been able to come out of the impact of the diesel hike during and after the lockdown. There has not been any increment or benefit given, payments have not been released and to top it all, this 10% hike will kill us”.~ Chirag Katira, General Secretary (Maharashtra) at All India Motor Transport Congress (AIMTC)
While speaking about the proposed EMI moratorium extension, he informed that the proposed restructuring did not happen and there has not been any refined policy that has kept the people on the same page. “The extension on the moratorium will depend on your equation with the banker”, Mr Katira expressed in disappointment.
While shedding more light on how the toll tax will impede the profit margins of the transporters, Mr Katira explained how the move will be a hammering blow for part of the transporters fraternity who will go down from making zero profits to now running into losses.
“For the transporters who keep a margin of 2-3%, if our costs increase by 1%, our profits will come down. Other transporters are barely surviving bereft of any profit margin, for whom this 1% will be a huge loss for them,” Mr Katira said.