Maharashtra proposes green cess on old vehicles

Transport, taxi unions oppose the move BY RAJIL MENON Mumbai  

By Rajil Menon
Published: Tuesday 30 March 2010

Maharashtra’s transport department has proposed an annual tax of Rs 5,000 on all commercial and private vehicles that are 15 years old or more. The money generated would be used for implementing air pollution control measures. The tax is also expected to check use of old polluting vehicles. “The plan is at the proposal stage and needs cabinet approval,” said state transport minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil.

Dubbed green tax, it would first be introduced in polluted cities like Mumbai.  Vintage cars would be exempt from the tax.
Earlier, the state government had proposed scrapping all commercial vehicles older than 15 years as done in Kolkata and Delhi. But now the state has changed tack and decided to tax polluting vehicles to curb their use. “The money collected as green tax would be utilized to create awareness about pollution, enforcement and infrastructure for pollution monitoring,” said U S Alsi, deputy transport commissioner (enforcement II). He said 40 per cent of the registered 10 million vehicles in the state are over 15 years old.

Transport researchers and environmental activists are not convinced that the move would curb pollution. “It is good that old polluting vehicles will have to pay a tax, but this will not control air pollution. Rs 5,000 is too measly an amount and cannot be applied uniformly on all kinds of vehicles,” said Roshni Udyavar Yehuda, head of Rachna Sansad's Institute of Environmental Architecture in Mumbai. She said implementing the proposal would not prove a deterrent, rather encourage some vehicle owners to continue polluting the city's air. She also pointed out all old vehicles may not necessarily be polluting.

Yehuda said the transport authority should take cue from some of the developed countries where vehicles compulsorily undergo annual checking which is funded by a road tax all vehicle owners pay. “Vehicles that fail the test are not allowed to ply the roads unless their owners make the necessary changes in the engine,” said Yehuda. Bina Balakrishnan, a transport expert in Mumbai, said the green tax was a welcome move but the challenge would lie in ensuring that all old vehicles are phased out and putting pollution monitoring mechanisms in place.

Transport unions are opposing the tax. “We would be badly hit if old vehicles are banned or taxed,” said Nimit Shah, member of the Bombay Goods Transport Association which has over 1,350 members who together own 1.5 million vehicles. “If the proposal is passed, over 400,000 vehicles of our association would be affected,” he said.

Taxi unions said they should not be made to pay the additional tax. “Taxis and autorickshaws in Mumbai are running on CNG, a clean fuel. Then why should we cough up additional money?” asked A L Quadros, general secretary of Mumbai Taximen’s Union. The state government has already phased out taxis 25 years old or more and no financial support was given to the taxi owners who had to take bank loans and pay 10 per cent money upfront to purchase new taxis, said Quadros.

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