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The stand-off between the Meghalaya government and the taxi drivers of the state over fuel price hike is yet to be resolved with the latter determined to go ahead with its agitation after talks between two parties remained inconclusive.
Meghalaya Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong on Saturday said that the Government will explore the possibilities of issuing additional permits to people who are willing to start taxi services if the Meghalaya Joint Action Committee of Commercial Vehicles (MJACCV) refuses to call off their indefinite strike.
"There are a lot of options available with the Government. If the joint committee is adamant to continue with their indefinite strike and refuses to cooperate with the government, then we will have to explore the option of issuing additional permits for resuming of the taxi services," Tynsong said while speaking to reporters here on Saturday.
According to him, the decision of the MJACCV to organise public meetings in Mairang (West Khasi Hills) and other areas to clarify this issue would not serve any purpose adding that the Government is aware of their demands.
“We are seriously examining their demands,” he said, adding that the government has already decided to offer a rebate of Rs 2 from the tax component of the retail price of petrol and diesel.
“We will again have a meeting next week of the Taxation, Finance and other concern departments (to decide on the) prices of petrol and diesel. We will then (take) a decision accordingly," the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Reacting to a question raised by the teachers on the 31 per cent cess being collected from petrol and diesel, Tynsong urged the teachers not be carried away by emotions, even as he reiterated that the cess of Rs 350 to Rs 400 crore which is being collected from the fuel tax goes toward education.
"The budget which the government has to earmark for the education sector is around Rs 1200 crore annually. Do teachers feel that the cess which is being collected goes to the pocket of the Ministers? If they have doubts, they can always file an RTI. We must not forget (that) all the annual expenditures of the government is being audited by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG). The CAG report, once tabled in the Assembly, becomes a public document and everyone is free to scrutinise," the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Taxi Association hits back at the government
Hitting back at the government, MJACCV Chairman Wandonbok Jyrwa said they are willing to give up their permits and start operation using private vehicles, which according to them, is more convenient since they have to pay tax only once in five years.
“If they (government) do away with the permit, we will operate using private vehicles and this will ease the burden of taxi owners as they wouldn’t need to pay tax. It is a golden opportunity for us,” Jyrwa said.
Garo Hills-based tourist drivers’ association extends support
The president of the All Tourist Drivers’ Association in Garo Hills, Dinesh Kumar Shah has urged the government to heed their demands for tax revision as it is a "genuine demand".
“The tourist drivers have to pay for insurance and passenger tax which increases every year apart from taxes levied on petrol and diesel. So, it is unfair on the part of the government to ask us to stick to the old tariff,” Shah said.
MJACCV announces series of protests
The taxi association has announced a series of protests starting Monday, the 15th of February. This was in line with the ongoing agitation which started last week following a hike in the prices of petrol and diesel in the state.
They have been demanding a reduction in the taxes levied on petrol and diesel, revision of the tariff besides others, to ease the financial burden on the taxi owners and drivers.
(Edited by Ibankyntiew Mawrie)
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