Telangana entry tax kicks in, AP vehicles go off roads

Commuting by road from various places in Andhra Pradesh to Hyderabad and elsewhere in Telangana came to a halt on Tuesday evening with AP private transport operators suspending their services in protest against the TRS government's decision to impose entry tax.

As per GO No. 15 issued by the Telangana government, all goods vehicles entering the state from AP on short-term licences not covered by national permit, AP state contract carriages, all India tourist buses and maxi cabs are liable to pay the tax effective Tuesday midnight (April 1). This would lead to a hike in the private bus fares by about 50 per cent, besides increase in the prices of commodities like food grains and vegetables that are ferried to Telangana from AP. To protest the entry tax, majority of the AP private bus operators decided to suspend services from Tuesday midnight. However, by Tuesday evening itself, commuting went haywire as nearly 800 private buses were pulled off the roads by the operators. Besides, the bus operators suspended the computerized reservation system in view of the strike.

“Almost all the private bus operators have suspended the operation of their buses from Tuesday midnight.Already , 800 buses have stopped plying between Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. Our demand is that there should not be double taxation as it will ultimately burden the common man in the form of increased fares,“ H Subash Chandra Bose, president of erstwhile AP Private Bus Operators Association, told TOI. Transport officials said thousands of passengers were stranded due to the sudden cancellation of private services and RTC buses were pressed into service to handle the additional demand.

But shortage of buses and manpower is making it difficult for RTC to manage the additional traffic. There are about 4,000 private buses operating between the two states of which nearly 3,000 are between Vijayawada and Hyderabad.

The RTC has about 2,000 buses operating between the two states and is not affected by the entry tax as the corporation is yet to be divided.However, Kesineni Travels, among the biggest operators, decided to continue its operations by paying the tax at the border and extracting the same from the passengers.

As a result, the fares shot up to Rs1,500 for the sleeper class from the existing Rs1,000 between Vijayawada and Hyderabad. All the other fares too witnessed a similar jump with Kesineni and others forcing the passengers, who turned up for travel on Tuesday, to pay the difference amount before they board the bus.

Kesineni Nani, owner of Kesineni Travels and Vijayawada TDP MP, said they would fight it out in the high court. “I have already filed the petition on the issue following which the HC has asked both the state governments to hold talks and come to an understanding. However, the Telangana govern ment has unilaterally imposed the entry tax on all vehicles without even discussing the matter with the AP government. This is completely unconstitutional,“ he said.

“This is unilateral decision by the Telangana gov ernment. The two state gov ernments should discuss the issue and find out an amica ble solution,“ said AP transport minister Sidda Raghava Rao.

The minister threatened to retaliate by imposing tax on Telangana vehicles that make trips to Andhra ports.“Kakinada and Krishnapatnam ports are very important for the Telangana industries and cement, granite and iron ore are being exported from these ports. We will not hesitate to impose a tax on these vehicles,“ said Raghava Rao. But, he immediately added that there is no such proposal at this juncture.

The AP Lorry Owners Association said the imposition of entry tax by Telangana will result in spiralling of prices of essential commodities in both the states. “AP should immediately seek the Centre's help to rein in the TRS government,“ said its president Y V Eswaraiah.

Meanwhile, Telangana stood firm on its decision to impose entry tax from Tuesday midnight. “We are going ahead with the tax. We have issued orders to the officials concerned and they will decide how much to collect from different vehicles coming from AP,“ Telangana transport minister M Mahender Reddy told the media.

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