The urban local bodies of Uttarakhand have asked the state government to reintroduce toll tax in municipal areas to fund their development needs.
Struggling to balance expenses and revenue, representatives of local bodies say bringing back the entry tax will strengthen their coffe`.
There are 78 urban local bodies in Uttarakhand, which include six municipal corporations, 31 municipal boards and 41 nagar panchayats.
Municipalities in the undivided Uttar Pradesh used to tax vehicles entering their territory under the Uttar Pradesh Municipalities Act, 1916. However, Uttar Pradesh scrapped the tax on August 1, 1991.
Uttarakhand, which was hived off Uttar Pradesh, had adopted the municipalities Act. And now wants to resuscitate the tax.
Haridwar mayor Manoj Garg said if the government allows local bodies to collect entry tax, it will enable them to improve civic services like waste management, streetlights and road sweeping.
“We have written to the state government to allow us to introduce an entry tax for tourists arriving in Haridwar as rapid urbanisation and increasing population over the past few yea` have led to additional pressure on us,” he told HT.
Haridwar receives two to three lakh tourists per day on an average.
State Urban development minister Pritam Singh Panwar said the government could mull over the demand if the urban local bodies submit a formal proposal in this regard.
“We are in the process of carving out a separate Act for the urban local bodies of Uttarakhand and so can consider the demand if a formal suggestion is made in this regard,” he told HT.
He stressed the civic bodies should take up robust tax reforms and maximise collection of different types of property and municipal taxes.
Though the local bodies are working out to amp up its income, a large portion of the eaw rnings is spent on meeting establishment expenses.
For example, the Dehradun Municipal Corporation’s revenue generated through house/property tax grew from `3 crore in 2008 to `5.30 crore in 2014-15 (targeted). However, the local body’s annual expenses on salaries and pensions stand at `46.73 crore, most of which are covered by government grants.
Dehradun city mayor Vinod Chamoli said instead of allowing individual local bodies to impose toll or entry tax, the government could also collect toll tax in various areas and distribute it among the local bodies.
“Our expenses have increased drastically after the implementation of the 6thPay Commission. But, the quantum of government grants to local bodies has not increased in proportion to our needs. Thus, allowing toll tax share will not only help strengthen the urban local bodies but also help us in providing better services to the public,” he told HT.
The urban local bodies have also in the past demanded a share in quarrying and excise (tax on sale of liquor) revenue. The Dehradun Municipal Corporation had sought a 30% share in the development charges levied by the Mussoorie Dehradun Development Authority (MDDA) in the civic body area.
But there is a word of caution.
Atol Singh Rawat, the chairman of Badkot Nagar panchayat, which receives high tourist influx owing to nearby holy shrine of Yamunotri, said, “Re-introducing toll tax will certainly help us but the government should fix the rates in such a way that tourists/pilgrims don’t feel overburdened.”