Private bus operators on Tuesday urged Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann to lower taxes to bail them out from the crisis the sector is facing because of mounting losses.
Under the banner of Punjab Motor Union, operators who ply nearly 2,000 private buses in the state, said they have been facing mounting losses on account of the tax burden and the negligible increase in fares over the past years.
"The Punjab government is keen to attract investments via the Invest Punjab Summit on February 23-24. But before calling for new investments, there is a need to focus on domestic investors, particularly Punjab's indigenous private passenger bus industry," Punjab Motor Union Secretary RS Bajwa said here.
The union representatives said the previous government's decision to allow free travel for women in state-run buses ruined the private sector. "As a result, almost 40 per cent of our passengers -- mainly women -- shifted to Punjab Roadways and PRTC buses," Bajwa said.
Bajwa also reminded the government that the previous regime's promise to reduce the tax burden to offset the impact of free travel facility for women was not yet implemented. "The present government led by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann must revisit the decision and announce a suitable compensation for us," he added.
Shubhkarman Brar, a private bus operator, said, "The tax burden per kilometre on private operators was Rs 2.69. To make things worse, a 10 per cent social security cess has been levied on it. "The result is that the tax burden per kilometre now stands at Rs 2.96." He described the 90-paise-per litre cess on diesel as another harsh measure.
"Our demand is that the tax burden per kilometre be reduced to Re 1 if our industry is to be saved," added Brar. Another private bus operator Sandeep Sharma said apart from the tax reduction, fares should also be hiked by three per cent per year to save the sector.