Mohan, a truck owner in Namakkal — the truck industry hub in Tamil Nadu — is worried. Already under tremendous strain because of the non-availability of cargo, he is now concerned about the Centre’s plan to levy a ‘Green Tax’ on commercial vehicles of over eight years old to curb pollution. He has two vehicles which are 10 years old and used for carrying cargo over short distances.
Lakhs of vehicle owners, especially of single trucks, across the country will have to pay the new tax, if implemented, since many own vehicles which are over eight years old. The Road Transport Ministry, which has backed the proposal, has however left it to the states to impose the levy.
In a separate move, the Union Budget has proposed a voluntary scrapping policy for vehicles. The Road Transport Ministry has said that under the voluntary scrapping policy, older vehicles have to be tested for fitness, and then scrapped, based on test findings. Incidentally, states such as Delhi have stricter norms for older vehicles, driven by Supreme Court and National Green Tribunal orders.
The revenue collected will have to be sequestered in a separate account and used for tackling pollution, and for states to set up facilities for emission monitoring.
Naveen Kumar Gupta, Secretary General, All India Motor Transport Congress, an umbrella body, slammed the proposal, describing it as a unilateral decision of the Centre. “How did it happen without consultations with stakeholders? It is dictatorial and punitive, just to extract money under the garb of pollution. Did pollution come down in Delhi after the levy of the green tax?” he asked.
Even after the Green Tax and restricting the age of vehicles in Delhi NCR to 10 years, its air quality was poor, he pointed out. “Has the Ministry become another National Green Tribunal? The transport sector is already crushed under high taxation, rising fuel prices and corruption. This will only make it worse for the sector,” Gupta said. “Levying a Green Tax is just to fill the coffers of the government and it seems it is being given as a sweetener to the states for the Central government’s failure to pay up adequate GST revenue share to them,” he added.
Mahendra Arya, President, All India Transporters Welfare Association, agreed with Gupta. “Small operators have a fleet of over 15-year-old vehicles. They have a feeble voice, no one will hear them. Organised transport companies do not keep vehicles older than 8-10 years. The underlying idea is to support the scrappage policy by making older vehicles unviable on all financial grounds,” Arya said.