Govt raises revenue, but has not done enough for drivers, SKM alleges

Gangtok, 02 Aug:

The driver’s front of Sikkim Krantikari Morcha today demanded that since the State Government was collecting substantial revenue from the drivers here, it should also work genuinely in the interest and welfare of drivers of Sikkim. The front alleged that the State Government has “totally failed” in providing better facilities and infrastructure to drivers.

Addressing a press conference here today, SKM driver’s front chief coordinator, Phula Bhutia, informed that while earlier, the concerned department was charging Rs 50 as special permit from commercial vehicles for three destinations outside the State, drivers are now paying Rs 100 just for a single destination as the special permit.

He demanded that the government immediately bring down the special permit charge.

While mentioning that local drivers are still facing some problem in the counter-sign issue required for those plying outside Sikkim, he stated that as it was an inter-state matter with West Bengal, the government should immediately hold a meeting with its counterparts in West Bengal and resolve the issue in the interest of local drivers.

On the cost of high security number plates, Mr Bhutia informed that while drivers in other states have been paying around Rs 600 for high security number plates, vehicle owners in Sikkim initially paid Rs 2,250 and are presently paying Rs 1,450 for high security number plates.

He contended that this was “total injustice and looting” of local drivers and demanded that either local drivers should be given liberty to install high security number plates outside the State or the charges be brought down like in other States.

Mr Bhutia also demanded that the parking spaces in Singtam shopping complex be opened immediately to address the serious parking problem of the area.

Driver’s front general secretary [north/east], Raju Thatal, in turn, mentioned that local drivers have been facing acute problems of parking. He mentioned that the Motor Vehicles Division has continuously been issuing new numbers without reviewing availability of parking places. On the same, he stressed that MV Division should work in close coordination with Gangtok Municipal Corporation and Traffic Division before issuing new numbers to address the parking issue.

Mr Thatal stated that the concerned authority should notify the parking rates to regulate random parking fee. He also stressed that the concerned authorities should also talk to parking contractors to make security arrangements for parked vehicles in parking lots.

Likewise, the driver’s front executive member, Mohan Rai, mentioned that during registration the Motor Vehicle Division was charging Rs 7,000 from luxury vehicles for all Sikkim route permits for five years till the end of 2017, but now the MV Division has been charging Rs 2000 from a luxury vehicle for a year.

He also mentioned that apart from increase in route permit rates, the administration has been compelling luxury vehicles to pay extra for the permits to restricted areas from the upcoming tourist season onwards.

On the same, Mr Rai urged the State government to immediately give relaxation in these taxes if it was serious about making local youth self-employed in this sector. He alleged that due to repeated system failure in the Motor Vehicle division for paying different fees drivers were compelled to pay late fees for no fault of theirs.

SKM spokesperson, Jacob Khaling, alleged that the government has been collecting a good amount of revenue from drivers but has not given any good facilities or infrastructure to drivers.

Referring to the SKM 2014 election manifesto, Mr Khaling stated that the party had promised life insurance for all drivers, complete free treatment of drivers in the event of any accident, reduction in rate of high security number plates and drivers guest houses in all districts and at all major tourist spots.

He mentioned that the party also has a programme for government drivers to provide grade system for government drivers, family quarters and guest houses and risk allowances.