Tax slash: better times for maxi cabs

Sandhya Soman

There has been an increase in demand for permits

CHENNAI: More maxi cabs are running on city roads, cashing in on tax slash, to cater to the demand from IT and allied sectors.

In January 2006, the Transport department had issued 703 new permits in Chennai. With this the number of maxi-cabs including vans, Qualis and Sumos, has gone up from 3, 932 (as on January 1) to 4, 635 (as on February 1, 2006).

The increase in demand for fresh permits, according to officials and vehicle owners, follows the State Government's decision to slash vehicle tax from Rs. 500 to Rs. 275 per seat for vehicles with a seating capacity of nine and 12. The new rates had come into effect from January 1.

The scramble for fresh permits is particularly high in the city, where nearly 1, 200 cabs ply exclusively at night to pick up and drop employees in the IT and allied sectors, says The Tamil Nadu Van Owners' Association president R. Kamala Kannan.

"Those who have taken new permits are mostly fleet operators who run vehicles on the IT corridor in south and towards Sriperumbudur. Both areas have a number of companies and call centres," says Mr. Kamala Kannan.

Confirms V. Srinivasan, senior manager (operations), Allsec Technologies: "We provide transport to 1, 800 employees. Though the rates have not come down, there has been an increase in the number of operators."

D. Balakrishnan, who bought his way out of three private Maruti omnis to buy two Mahindra vans last year, says the going is good.

"I didn't want any more trouble by taking school students in private vehicles. So I bought old vans and didn't bother about the tax as they came cheap. Now I save Rs. 1,000 every month. I make up for the diesel cost by running short trips during weekends and at night," he adds.

The new players are not catering to schools as the monthly income is not profitable after meeting the fuel charges, say operators.

But nobody is complaining except some call centre employees who recall accidents and even rash driving.

As for the rest of the State, operators are waiting, says Mr. Kannan on the rather marginal increase in the number of fresh permits. "Nobody expected the tax to go down this much.

Most of the operators are waiting for elections to get over to be sure before investing. Also tourism would pick up in May-June," he adds.