Illegal taxis make a killing at the cost of state exchequer

Ambala, July 19

Tour operators plying taxis illegally are making a killing, causing loss to the state’s exchequer. Not only this, their business thrives at the cost of those who ply approved taxis, travelling in which is an expensive proposition. There are reportedly 15,000 approved vehicles (nine-seater or less) in the state. This is only 30 per cent of total vehicles that ply. In Ambala, nearly 600 registered vehicles ply. The owners of such vehicles have tie-ups with unauthorised taxi stand owners who provide them with business. Traveling in an authorised taxi (that has a permit) costs around Rs 10 to Rs 14 a km, while the cost is reduced to Rs 5 to Rs 8 a km in an unapproved taxi. The reason being owners of unapproved taxis do not pay commercial taxes. Bittu, a local tour operator, said: “A tourist permit for a five-seater vehicle costs at least Rs 14,000 per annum. Taxi owners also pay Rs 800 as token tax to the civic body and end up getting a service tax number. Besides, vehicles are checked every year and fitness certificates are issued against a stipulated fee. All this makes the cost of running a taxi higher than a private vehicle. Those with spare cars use the vehicles as taxis.” Braham Dutt Sharma, another tour operator, said: “Those operating taxis as per rules are deprived of business, as people prefer private vehicles as taxis for which they have to pay less.” At the local railway station, owners of private vehicles ferry passengers to various locations. One of the drivers told The Tribune they offer a cut to the traffic cops present there, who allows them to call out for passengers and earn profits. Surinder Raju, president of the Ambala Cooperatives Transport Welfare Association, said the body had filed a petition in the High Court in 2010, seeking issuance of directives to the state authorities to take illegal vehicles off the roads. “The High Court had passed an order against illegal vehicles in 2012. Till date, no action has been taken against them. The association has filed a contempt petition in the High Court, following which the court issued notices to the authorities. August 8 has been fixed as the next day of hearing,” he said. An official, meanwhile, said it was difficult to identify private vehicles being used for commercial purposes. The authorities challan illegal vehicles but, in most of the cases, those hiring a taxi claim the vehicle to be their own and escape action. “Plying of illegal vehicles will continue till a mechanism to check the practice is put in place,” he added.