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26 Jul 2017

Transporters' woes

TT, Siliguri, July 25: The indefinite strike in the hills has hit commercial transporters' who have to pay quarterly taxes, bear maintenance costs and pay drivers salaries though vehicles have been off roads.
"Since the middle of June, our earnings have sharply declined. Our vehicles are sitting idle, and so are drivers. We have to bear the regular maintenance costs, and pay taxes and other charges. Altogether, it is a tough situation and we don't know how long it will continue," Jayanta Majumdar, a transport service provider in Siliguri, said.
According to the transporters', around 800 light vehicles used to ply from Siliguri to the hills everyday. Another 500 vehicles, owned by people in hills, come down to the plains.
"For the past 45 days, only a handful of vehicles have been going to Sikkim. Many of us are not even sending their vehicles to Sikkim because of attacks on drivers," another transporter based here said.
There are over 400 trucks which carry goods from Siliguri to the hills. Added to these are 300-odd smaller goods vehicles.
In the transport sector, it is a common trend to take finance from banks and other financial institutions to buy vehicles. "These days, this is yet another challenge for many transporters' like us who have keep on paying the monthly instalments, even though the earnings have dropped," a transporter who rents vehicles on reserve basis to tourists and corporate groups, said.
Situation is equally bad in hills.
"Many of us could not deposit the quarterly tax and other charges with the motor vehicles department. There are vehicle owners who live in remote areas and do not have any means of transport to travel to Darjeeling to clear the dues," a commercial vehicle owner in the hills said.
They are apprehensive that after things turn normal, they might have to pay fines for the delay.
"Also, fitness certificates need to be renewed. Thus, even if the strike ends, owners of such vehicles can only start running those vehicles only after they get the certificate renewed. This means, additional loss of earnings," he elaborated.

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