Private bus operators under debt due to Covid restrictions, demand tax relief

3,500 buses across Himachal off the road

Private bus operators under debt due to Covid restrictions, demand tax relief

Private buses parked near a petrol pump near Nurpur.

Rajiv Mahajan

NURPUR, JUNE 9

The Covid pandemic forcing transport services off the road during corona curfew and lockdown since March last has sounded death knell for private bus operators.

Amid the curfew, a fleet of around 3,500 buses across the state and 900 in Kangra district alone is off the road.

Ravi Dutt Sharma, Kangra District Private Bus Operators Welfare Society, said most of the private bus operators were in the midst of a drastic financial crisis and some of them had taken to selling vegetables and doing labour work to sustain their families.

Sharma said the state government had betrayed private bus operators by giving hollow assurances to them for the past one year. He lamented that the government had not even included crew members of the private buses in the recently announced vaccination priority list, though it had declared HRTC staff as corona warriors. He urged the Chief Minister to include employees and operators of the private bus transport industry in the priority list and rescue this industry, which was generating direct and indirect employment for over 50,000 persons across the state.

“The transport operators, who had raised huge bank loans for purchasing buses, are unable to pay bank EMIs. The government should come out with a policy to bail them out,” he demanded.

Pleading for moratorium on loan payment for at least six months, Sharma demanded that the state government should exempt Special Road Tax and Token Tax since August 2020 till the end of the pandemic as operators were not in position to deposit these taxes as they were already stuck in debt trap.

He said the government should announce relief package for the operators, bus drivers and conductors so that they could sustain their families.

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