Private bus owners demand tax waiver, subsidies post-lockdown

Private stage carriage (route bus) owners, whose over 8,000 buses across the State have remained parked following the lockdown, have said their operations can continue post-lockdown only if the government waives road tax for the lockdown period and offers adequate subsidy for tax and fuel.

The scenario of public transport gets completely changed post-lockdown when buses are allowed to operate with 40% capacity to maintain social distance. It will not be commercially feasible to operate services in such a condition, unless the government offers subsidies in road tax and fuel, said Dilraj Alva, president of DK Bus Owners Association that represents Mangaluru private city bus operators.

Sadananda Chatra, office-bearer of Karnataka Bus Owners Federation and owner of Durgamba Motors in Kundapur, said every permit-holder has to pay advance quarterly tax of ₹999 per seat to the government. For a 48-seater bus, the annual tax component comes to ₹1.91 lakh. Owners are finding it difficult to pay taxes during normal times and at present, it is impossible. The government as of now has not waived taxes, but only deferred advance payment for the first quarter, Mr. Chatra said.

Lamenting that the tax incidence for private stage carriages has been the highest in Karnataka despite operators providing good services, Mr. Alva said taxes were much less elsewhere in the country. With international crude prices falling to a new low, the government should provide diesel at cheaper prices to public transport operators on the lines of subsidised diesel to fishermen, he said.

Federation president K. Rajavarma Ballal said operators will have to run buses almost empty for the first two months after the lockdown. Owners run business on loans and there is no interest-waiver on outstanding amounts during the lockdown. The situation has been challenging for the owners, Mr. Ballal said.

No salary for crew

At least 24,000 workers directly depending on about 8,000 private stage carriage buses across the State have not been paid their salaries during the lockdown period.

Very few operators have permanent employment system and they too are unable to pay full salary, said Sadananda Chatra, owner of Durgamba Motors. DK Bus Owners Association president Dilraj Alva said the association has urged members to pay salaries to the crew as far as possible. Many have paid for March; but it cannot be guaranteed for April, he said.

Karnataka State Bus Owners Federation president K. Rajavarma Ballal said with majority owners going for contract system where crew get commission over daily collection, their payment was also in jeopardy without operation.

Mr. Chatra said Udupi district administration has said operations will be allowed only if operators come up with a physical contact-less fare collection system. “We are in touch with our IT service providers to find out a suitable digital payment method,” he said.

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Printable version | Jun 1, 2020 8:21:25 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/private-bus-owners-demand-tax-waiver-subsidies-post-lockdown/article31464387.ece

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