Bengal government offers sops to transporters owning old vehicles

January 22nd, 2009 - 10:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Kolkata, Jan 22 (IANS) The West Bengal government Thursday offered financial sops to bus and taxi operators to persuade them to stop using vehicles more than 15 years old by March 31as per a court directive.In separate meetings with bus and taxi operators, state Transport Minister Subhas Chakraborty promised government subsidies and easy bank loans, besides concessions from automobile companies for buying new vehicles to those owners whose buses/taxis are more than 15-year old.

The Calcutta High Court in July last year banned commercial vehicles registered before Jan 1, 1993, from Kolkata and its outskirts. The decision, aimed at freeing the city of severe automobile pollution, is to take effect from March 31, 2009, though the state government has sought a four-month extension till July 31.

In a meeting with taxi operators, Chakraborty said the government would provide a subsidy of Rs.25,000 for buying new vehicles costing Rs.366,000. The automobile companies would give a reduction of Rs.45,000. “We will also help in getting back loans and also give a one-year waiver on road tax”.

In another meeting with bus owners’ organisations and trade unions, Chakraborty promised a package from the Rs.4,000 crore (Rs.40 million) fund that the government has got under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNURM).

The government would provide 35 percent of the vehicle price or around Rs. 600,00 as subsidy, while the bus owners would have to bear 15 percent of the expenses. “We will also help in arranging a big amount as bank loan,” he said.

Some days back, the government was in a soup while trying to implement a Calcutta High Court order banning two-stroke autorickshaws from Dec 31 to reduce the pollution level.

A two-member division bench of the Calcutta High Court, comprising Chief Justice S.S Nijjar and Justice Pinaki Chnadra Ghosh, ordered the state government to submit a report every 15 days, which would be scrutinised by the court.

The government has prayed for extension of time till July 31, which is likely to be considered in the next court hearing.

It is estimated that around 80,000 auto-rickshaws, 24,000 taxis and over 8,000 buses and mini-buses are being affected by the court order.

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