TODAY -
Illegal tax taking toll of State transporters
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, July 25 2009: Taking grim note of illegal tax collection by activists of various hill-based armed outfits in broad day-light and allegedly in full view of security force personnel deployed at check-post along both the NH-39 and NH-53 routes, a number of passenger as well as goods transport operators have asked the State Government to reign in such elements failing which transport activities would be halted.

Representatives of transport operators interacting with newspersons at Aryan Theatre (Wahengbam Leikai) today, cautioned that in case State authorities do not check such rampant collection of illegal taxes along the Imphal-Jiribam and Imphal-Dimapur routes transporters have no other alternative but to cease service.

Speaking to the media, representatives of All Manipur Inter-State Bus Association, manipur Drivers' Welfare Association, Imphal-silchar Road Transporters' Society and All Manipur Petroleum Tanker Drivers' Union alleged that such illegal tax collections are being carried out close to security check posts manned by State as well as Central forces.

They insisted that failure on the part of the Government to reign in these elements would constrain transporters to halt service that could eventually be a huge blow to the State's economy and specifically lead to hardships of all concerned.

Further alleging that illegal tax collections on these two important routes are being carried out by activists belonging to armed organisations that had signed ceasefire and are involved in peacetalks with either the State or the Central Government, they also pointed out that on numerous occasion complaint memoranda were submitted to the Chief Minister, Transport Minister and DGP of Manipur Government.

Recounting that their complaints included not only urging for preventive measures to stop illegal tax collections but also develop and proper maintenance of NH-39 and NH-53, the transporters expressed serious resentment that till date no positive action had been initiated by the State authorities.

Speaking to the media, president of Petroleum Tanker Drivers' Union, Y Bhupenchandra Ghosh said since the past 20/30 years armed miscreants had been causing immense difficulties to both transport operators and passengers through various forms of criminal acts purportedly linked to extortion of money.

Apart from a number of transport operators being harassed or killed by these elements there had been instances of female travellers raped and molested on these two routes that had literally being transformed into a highway of notoriety, he asserted.

The Union's president further expressed that continued callousness by state authorities to transporters' proposal for parking spots of buses and trucks at Guwahati and Silchar as well as lack of a viable policy to deploy Highway Protection Force and arrange road opening parties had been contributing to the chronic problem.

Bhupenchandra also pondered whether reluctance of the State Government to ensure safe and smooth passage of vehicles on these important highways implies that transporters cease service in order to aggravate suffering of the people of Manipur.

He also informed that due to illegal occupation of substantial portion of the MSRTC campus in Dimapur, trucks and passenger carriers of Manipur have to station the vehicles at private parking zones at Rs 100 per vehicle.

Highlighting sense of insecurity felt by the vehicle operators while parking at private sites, he drew urgent attention of the state Government to station adequate strength of State security force at the Dimapur MSRTC campus for which transport operators would be more than willing to pay relevant parking fee/tax.

Bhupenchandra also suggested that necessary arrangements be made for parking slots at Jiribam, Silchar and Guwahati without further delay.

Joining in the media briefing, secretary of Drivers' Welfare Association M Tomba specifically mentioned that along the NH-39 route the Kohima-Dimapur section and from Mao to Motbung truckers are subjected to constant threats and intimidations from armed elements.

While appealing to the armed persons to desist from any activities that could endanger the live of drivers and handymen (assistant drivers), tomba also desired that Government take all possible security measures.

He further conveyed of moral support of all the truck operators to the SDSA's demand for proper development/maintenance of the NH-39 route.

The secretary also appealed to all concerned to relax the current economic blockade on July 27 so as to enable over 300 goods carriers stranded at Khatkati return home as these vehicles had left Imphal unaware of the agitation plan.

Office bearers of transport bodies operating along the Imphal-silchar and Imphal-Guwahati routes, disclosed that members of armed outfits have been collecting tax at Senapati Gate, Noney and at Kangpokpi police station.

They maintained that in trying to meet tax demand of UG groups, clearing tax liability to the Government has become a difficult proposition.

The duo also highlighted that passenger carriers are faced with the dilemma of having to oblige to monetary demands from the armed groups only to be charged by Government agencies of collaborating and assisting banned outfits.

further claiming that inspite of cessation of abducting driver/handyman of passenger carriers in connection with extortion of money in between Sekmai to Kangpokpi in the recent past, bus owners/operators had been receiving telephone calls to pay up demanded amount, they also insisted that in case of failure to extent protection Government should be prepared to provide compensation for damage suffered by passenger carriers.


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