Hundreds of tourists and commuters across Himachal were put to great inconvenience on Monday with commercial vehicles, including taxis, going off roads following the call by the All Himachal Commercial Vehicle Joint Action Committee (AHCVJAC).
In Shimla, taxis, public goods carriers and some private buses went off roads causing inconvenience to locals as well as tourists, who thronged the state capital after the fresh snow spell, but remained stranded in their hotels.
“We came to Shimla following the snowfall, but due to the taxis’ strike we would have to stay here for another three days,” said Jugdeep Singh, a tourist from Delhi.
Rajat Goyal, a Shimla-based hotelier, said his business was hit adversely by the strike; there was no fresh booking for next 3-4 days.
However, public bus transport was partially hit in the state capital, as the Himachal Pradesh Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) had made special arrangements to facilitate commuters.
HRTC traffic manager for Shimla town Deva Sain Negi said private busses remained off the roads till 11 am. “We have made arrangements for 56 extra trips by local buses across the town,” said Negi, adding by the afternoon some private busses had also started plying.
Commercial vehicles from neighbouring states, which supply dairy products, also joined the strike, thereby affecting the supply of milk, curd and bread across the state.
Meanwhile, AHCVJAC president Jeet Ram claimed that the strike was successful as all commercial vehicles, including taxis, went off the roads. Only a few vehicles, which were under influence of the transport minister, were plying, he added.
“We never wanted to strike, but the government forced us by amending the motor vehicle rules,” he said.
The government was planning to increase road and commercial taxes manifold that which would affect their business adversely, said Ram, adding the tax was supposed to increase by 300%, while composite fees would be increased by six times. “Earlier the composite fee for small vehicles was `600 for three months, which was amended to `500 per day,” claimed Ram.
On January 4, the government had approved the amendments in Rules 67, 68 and 69-A of the Himachal Pradesh Motor Vehicle Rules 1999 to increase/rationalise the application fee, permit fee and composite fee.
Meanwhile, the transport department has refuted that there is any proposal to increase taxes. “Department has not issued any notification regarding the hike in taxes, as there is no such proposal,” said additional director (transport) Sanjay Sharma, adding the department had not received any notice of the strike by the commercial vehicle owners.
Bali dubs strike as ‘illegitimate’
Himachal transport minister GS Bali denied that the striking commercial vehicle operators had ever approached him with the demand of reduction in taxes. “If they have a problem, they should have contacted the transport officials concerned, and if their problem could not be comprehended, then they could have approached me,” said Bali, while terming the strike “illegitimate”.
Bali claimed the private bus operators were forced by the striking taxi operators to join them. “The private bus operator have given us in writing that they will not join the strike,” the minister added.