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Rough road for private bus operators

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No level playing field:Private operators say that they are being burdened, while the Government is doling out several sops to State-run road transport corporations.
No level playing field:Private operators say that they are being burdened, while the Government is doling out several sops to State-run road transport corporations.

Anil Kumar Sastry

Quarterly tax per seat increased from Rs. 500 to Rs. 600

BANGALORE: Private bus operators, who serve almost one-third of the State's public transport needs with around 7,000 buses, received a shock when Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa proposed to increase the quarterly tax per seat from Rs. 500 to Rs. 600.

The announcement comes at a time when the Government has been talking loudly about promoting public transport and discouraging private modes of transport. Even though Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), North West Karnataka Road Transport Corporation and North East Karnataka Road Transport Corporation were allowed to increase the fares following diesel price hike from Wednesday midnight, private operators have to wait till the Regional Transport Authority of the district allows the increase in fares,.

“Our load factor has already been on the decrease because of availability of other cheaper and convenient modes of transport. If we again increase the fares, we cannot compete with other modes of transport,” said Mahesh Bhat, Director of Sahakara Sarige, Koppa.

Mr. Bhat told The Hindu that the operators could have withstood this tax increase if the prices of diesel were not increased. Sarige operates 65 schedules in Chikmagalur district.

“Private operators, like State-run corporations, are providing service to lakhs of people in a better way. Nobody operates without profit motive and State corporations are no exceptions. When the government is doling out several sops to these corporations, why burden the private operators,” asked Rajavarma Ballal, President of Karnataka State Bus Owners' Federation.

Mr. Ballal told The Hindu that the operators had no other option but to pass on the burden to the public.

Balehonnur-based Road Users' Forum president Shankaranarayana Bhat said the road tax on KSRTC had been reduced from 17 per cent of the total traffic revenue to 7 per cent over the years.

On the other hand, the burden on private operators has been increased. Instead, the Government should have tightened tax collection, particularly from the mining sector and value added tax, Mr. Bhat felt.

The KSRTC, NEKRTC and NWKRTC have been allocated Rs. 25 crore each for improving services in rural areas.

Lifetime tax

Mr. Yeddyurappa brought certain categories of non-passenger vehicles under the lifetime tax (LTT) net from the quarterly tax regime. From April 1, light goods vehicles with unladen weight of 3,000 kg to 5,500 kg will attract LTT of Rs. 20,000 instead of Rs. 1,200 quarterly tax. Also, vehicles used in the construction industry such as mobile crane, tipper, fork lift, tower wagon etc, which had to pay quarterly tax of Rs. 200 per 1,000 kg of unladen weight, will have to pay LTT of 10 per cent on the total cost of the vehicle.

Describing this as a clever move, a senior transport department official said, owners of these categories of vehicles were habitual defaulters in payment of quarterly tax.

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