When was the last time the national capital heard people chanting ‘ Modi, Hai, Hai’ ( Down with Modi ?) Possibly for the very first time in his five year plus term as Prime Minister, slogans directed against him rent the air on Monday at Jantar Mantar in the heart of New Delhi.
To be precise, the slogans also included the Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari as well. ‘Modi-Gadkari Hai…Hai’ was the slogan the transporters in Delhi raised under the banner of United Front of Transport Associations (UFTA) to protest the exorbitant hike in penalties announced by the government in the Motor Vehicles Act 2019.
The transporters have also called for a strike on Thursday, September 19. There will be no auto, cab or state transport vehicle on the road and the Azadpur Mandi will also be closed down, they declared ominously. The protest was supported by transporters from Faridabad, Gurgaon, Noida, Ghaziabad and Rajasthan.
“How can the government do this? All of us will go bankrupt. Do they want us to starve? We provide essential services and they slap us with new policies. The increase in fines is brutal and harsh. Moreover, the MCD in South Delhi has decided that all trucks need to have a tag. Without this tag, we are not allowed in and if we do not have the tag, the truckers are slapped with huge fines. The MCD wants to do this online, but the servers are always down. This government has been harping about digital India, but it doesn’t work,” said Jaspal Singh of Sanjay Gandhi Transport Association.
“This is dictatorship. The government is not improving a corrupt system, instead it is penalising us. Most commercial vehicle operators have one to five vehicles. They will not be able to function,” complained an aggrieved Singh.
“Where will we be able to pay so much? When Nitin Gadkari increased the fine, he did not think about us. We will speak for whichever government will work for us,” underscored Rajinder Soni, UFTA vice president and leader of RSS-backed Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh.
The riled-up transporters questioned the hike in diesel and petrol prices and compared better times they had during the Manmohan Singh’s government. “During Manmohan Singh’s government, neither were the taxes so high, nor the prices of diesel and petrol even though the rates of crude oil have fallen during Modi’s government. We don’t understand what this government is up to,” lamented BK Tiwari, general secretary of All India Luxury Buses Union (AILBU).
The transporters pay a large amount of the tax in this country, but the government seems to have turned a blind eye to them.
“Which sector pays so much tax as us? We pay Road Tax, Goods and Services Tax and toll tax. We end up paying upwards of Rupees five lakh per year for each bus as taxes in the country. The toll tax itself comes to Rupees one lakh a month. Now come these fines,” asks Ganshyam Lahoti of AILBU.
The transporters are vexed with the government over other issues too.
“The insurance premiums are increasing every year, but the government wants to cap the liability of Insurance companies at Rs five lakh. So, why should we even take insurance then. The government wants to tax us on the assessment of presumptive Income under Section 44AE of the IT Act. What is the logic behind this,” questions Shyamlal Gola, UFTA general secretary.
The union of the Delhi State buses has also stated that they will remain off the roads in solidarity with the transporters.
Additionally, Azadpur Mandi will shut down on September 19.
“The biggest mandi in Asia will be shut on September 19. We will not be supplying produce to the market that day. The government needs to understand what is at stake,” stressed Gulshan Kumar, president of Foundation of Azadpur Truck and Tempos.