Confusion reigns as new rates are already being levied

Trips to Tamil Nadu from Kerala or any other State on contract carriages are becoming out of reach for the common man as the Tamil Nadu Assembly recently passed a Bill to increase heavily the entry tax for vehicles from other States.

The office of the Tamil Nadu Transport Commissioner says the new vehicle entry tax rates have not been implemented, but will take retrospective effect from April 1. On how the retrospective effect will be given, it says the details are being worked out.

But some check-posts are charging the new rates, leaving the vehicle operators confused.

Travel plans hit

Tourist bus operators in Kerala say the increase in tax will badly affect their business. Every day, at least 4,000 contract carriages, small and big, from Kerala reach the Velankanni-Nagore pilgrimage areas alone, the figure going up to 7,000 during many weekends.

Madurai and Palani are among the destinations in Tamil Nadu where a large number of pilgrims from Kerala go in hired vehicles. During the vacations, tourists from Kerala visit Courtallam, Ooty, Kodaikanal, and Kanyakumari in the neighbouring State. The new rates will affect their travel plans.

Under the old rates, a Kerala-registered contract carriage can enter Tamil Nadu by paying a permit fee ranging from Rs. 300 to Rs. 400 depending on the seating capacity at the Regional Transport Office check-post of Kerala. On the other side of the border, the Tamil Nadu Regional Transport Office check-post affixes the seal and endorses the permit issued by Kerala.

P. Jerome, a tourist bus driver, says Rs. 50 (for which no receipt will be issued) has to be paid at the Tamil Nadu check-post for getting the permit sealed.

The payments are usually made by those who hire the vehicle.

With the new rates, vehicles with more than 11 seats will have to pay the tax at Rs. 600 a seat, or Rs. 27,000 for a 45-seat tourist bus. For six-seat tourist maxi cabs, the rate fixed is Rs. 75 a seat, or a total of Rs. 450.

The permit allows the vehicle to be in Tamil Nadu for seven days.

But tourist vehicle operators say that though the new rates has not been notified, some check-post officials in Tamil Nadu make contract carriages pay them, compelling several tourist buses to call off the tour programmes at the check-posts and return, Mr. Jerome says.

Officials at the Puliayarai check-post in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu, across the Aryankavu border of Kerala, told The Hindu over the phone that the new rates had come into effect and any contract vehicle entering Tamil Nadu should pay them.