Additional tax: Tourist bus operators cut services to Kerala, likely to impact Sabarimala season

Representational Image l Photo: Mathrubhumi

Tourist buses from outside Kerala have been continuing to halt services to the state due to the imposition of additional taxes. The surprising move from tourist bus operators came at a time when Mandalam pilgrimage season in Sabarimala is expected to witness a large-scale movement of pilgrims from other states.

Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) had earlier made it mandatory that inter-state buses with an all-India permit should pay additional tax for entering the state. However, this has brought a financial burden on bus owners who paid Rs 3 lakh to receive the all-India permit. As per the government rule, the bus with 40 seats should pay an amount varying from Rs 90,000 to Rs 1.50 lakh as an additional tax for operating service in Kerala. Bus owners claimed they cannot survive this situation without revising the ticket rate.

In Tamil Nadu, the tax amount can be paid for a period of seven days or 30 days. But in Kerala, all vehicles should pay the tax for a period of three months. As a result, tourist buses that operate services in the state for a day or two during Sabarimala season have to pay tax for three months.

The move is apparently antithetical to the union government’s rationale that tax-related cobwebs pertaining to inter-state travel can be curbed with All India Tourist Vehicles (Authorization or Permit) Rule 2021. As per this rule, any vehicle registered in any state of India should be allowed to operate service to all states. But according to the MVD officials in Kerala, the centre didn't amend the rules related to tax by cutting the state's powers to impose an additional tax on vehicles from other states.

MVD Kerala identified that some private players in Kerala are registering vehicles in states like Nagaland, Odisha, and Arunachal Pradesh by using the union government’s provision. MVD directed these tourist bus operators who operate services in the state to change the registration to Kerala. Therefore, a decision was taken to impose an additional tax on vehicles coming from outside the state.

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