Two days before the Shiromani Akali Dal is to hold its next Sadbhawna rally in Goindwal Sahib where thousands of Akali supporters are expected to be brought in using private buses, the Punjab government on Saturday bent over backwards in accepting the demands of bus operators, reducing the various taxes bus and minibus operators have to pay in the state.
Following the Sadbhawna rally at Goindwal Sahib on December 14, the SAD will hold another show in Patiala on December 15. For the Patiala rally alone, the SAD will press over 1,000 buses into service to ferry supporters to the venue.
In this season of rallies, private bus operators, including minibus operators, sensing an opportunity, have been on the warpath with the government for the past one month demanding slash in lumpsum as also per kilometre taxes they have to pay the government.
Meeting their demand, the government on Saturday announced that the minibus tax has been slashed from Rs 50,000 to Rs 30,000 annually whereas Punjab Roadways/PRTC and private buses tax has been reduced from Rs 3.03 to Rs 2.73 per bus per kilometre per day. The tax holidays have been increased from five to six days.
The government has also decided to waive the motor vehicle tax for 10 days for those buses which did not ply during the protest against sacrilege incidents in the state.
The government said the tax slash issue was discussed in the cabinet and it was decided to constitute a three-member committee headed by transport minister Ajit Singh Kohar, which also included finance minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa and irrigation minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, to recommend changes.
The announcement is likely to pacify private bus operators in the state whose buses are to be used for the rallies. The bus operators have been virtually holding the SAD leadership to ransom by saying that they will not give their buses to ferry supporters till their demands are met. The bus operators have also been alleging that the payment offered by the SAD for ferrying supporters is not enough.
The other demands included exemption from paying adda fee and a ban on ferrying passengers in trucks.
Cong forced to hire buses from outside
Ludhiana: Unable to find transport in the Akali-ruled state for its December-15 Bathinda rally, the Congress is forced to hire buses and tractor-trailers from Haryana and Rajasthan, Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu has alleged.
It can’t even get the parking space and conveyance from schools and colleges. “Even otherwise, we didn’t want to inconvenience public and be seen as responsible for shutting educational institutes,” said Bittu, recently appointed as the campaign committee convener in Punjab. “The Congress has asked its own bus operators not to ply their buses to avoid the ire of the ruling party,” said Amarjit Singh Tikka, a party leader from Ludhiana.