BENGALURU: The outcome of a meeting of a group of transport ministers from different states, held in Guwahati two days ago, has a large section of the city's population excited. The meeting was held to discuss a uniform structure of road tax for vehicles across states. It resulted in a recommendation to adopt a method in which a vehicle owner will have to pay road tax for the vehicle just once.
Bengaluru had become the focal point for protests against a draconian rule brought by the state government in which owners of vehicles from other states, using them in Karnataka for more than 30 days, were forced to cough up road tax for a second time. This rule was introduced at a time when the national standard was 12 months, after which, the road tax became payable. A group of people challenged this amendment in court and managed to get the time frame restored to 12 months. But several vehicle owners still complain of harassment on the roads by police or transport department officials.
"I knew so many people who had their vehicles seized, or even worse, the officials would take away their ID cards, leaving them unable to report to work. When the court ruled in our favour by dismissing the 30-day deadline, all of us carried the judgment copy around in our vehicles and showed it whenever we were stopped. Now that the rule is back to 12 months, it was a small relief," said Sajeesh John, who works in the IT sector in the city and hails from Kerala.
Many vehicle owners who have been living in the city for the last few years agree that paying road tax is the right thing to do. The problem arises with the logistics involved. "Officially, if we pay the road tax in Karnataka, we should get the road tax paid back home refunded to us. But I am yet to see a case where this has been processed. It takes months, sometimes years, to just convince the officials to even accept that they will refund the tax. It also means multiple trips back home to the local RTO which we cannot afford to undertake," said another vehicle owner from Assam who did not want to be identified.
A group on Facebook, which was started to muster support for the one-nation-one-tax proposal, quickly swelled to over 40,000 members and at one time, members would post updates on where checking squads were located in order to help their fellow members escape being caught and having their vehicles seized. "With the level of technology available nowadays, it should not be a major hassle to set up an automated system where the road tax paid at registration is automatically transferred after deductions to the new state. It will provide relief to lakhs of people who migrate all across the country. It is heartening to see that the government is finally taking note of these issues after a long time and I hope something comes out of these recommendations," said Vanitha Joseph, a resident of Domlur who hails from Hyderabad.