Taxi fare hike "insult to injury", says SPYF


Gangtok, 03 Oct:

It has been more than seven months since the imposition of the stringent lockdown by the Govt. Although the unlock process has already been initiated by the Government the situation is far from the normal. People’s source of income has dwindled drastically since the declaration of the nationwide lockdown. For the majority of the people dependent on non-governmental professions the source of income has completely dried up since the month of March. The sky rocketing price of essential commodities has already made the survival difficult to the people. The much-touted Economic Revival Committee is yet to be announced by the Govt. Despite several suggestions given by SPYF and many other organisations and individuals, the Govt did not pay heed to any and as a result the people belonging to middle and lower middle class are finding it extremely difficult to eke out a living.

On such grim backdrop, the Govt has added insult to injury to the common people by doubling the travelling charge of the common people. By doing this the burden of the pandemic has been put to the shoulder of common people only. The covid-19 is a global pandemic, we all need to fight it together, and it should include the Govt too.

The Govt’s unilateral decision to double the taxi fare of the vehicles in the state is an insult to the injury to the common people, who has been hit hard already physically, emotionally and financially by the pandemic. Right from the imposition of the stringent lockdown, all the burden of the pandemic has been put on the shoulder of common men alone. There has not been any effort from the Govt’s side in lessening the burden of the common people. They are the common people who lost their jobs, their source of income, and their business, all for the sake of fighting the pandemic. The people donated generously to the Govt to fight against the pandemic. The people are paying for unregulated price rise in the market, the common people are being penalised for petty wrongdoing like not wearing mask properly even in their home and courtyards, all in the name of pandemic. In the name of the pandemic, the normal services in hospitals have been disrupted owing to which many people suffered and some even lost their lives. Many frontline workers sacrificed their lives, all for the sake of fighting pandemic. Amidst this the people with reach and power continued to break laws with impunity. Those close to usurper of the power were found guilty of not just breaking the laws of spreading the virus, not just to the common people but to the VVIPs as well. None of them were penelised. Now again by raising the vehicles fare by 100%, the Govt has once more shifted the burden of the pandemic to the poor people again. What has the Govt done so far in lessening the burden of the people? What happened to the much-touted Economic Revival Committee?

Is there any record in the history when any Govt had raised the cost of any service by 100% at once? It shows the apathy and insensitiveness of the Govt towards the condition of the poor people. We do not want the drivers to run their taxis in loss either. It is the duty of the Govt to find a middle path so that both the drivers and passengers do not suffer. Right from the start of the pandemic SPYF has been placing several suggestions to the Govt in handling the situation rationally.

In the month of July, SPYF had requested the Govt to start SNT busses from and between all the important towns and bazars of the state as the bus is safer to travel as compared to taxis. Moreover, the buses could have been run without raising the fare. But the Govt as always gave a deaf ear to our suggestions. We had also advised the Govt to give sizeable economic relief fund to the drivers as well as to other small businessmen and entrepreneurs. In order to compensate for the loss due to the lockdown the Govt must give relaxation in the different taxes levied by the state to the drivers. The Govt must advise the banks to give relaxation in the installment and in the interest for the drivers who have bought vehicles on loan. We had also suggested the Govt to slash at least 30% of the salaries from the Govt employees including MLAs, advisors, chairpersons etc, whose monthly salary in more than one lakh.

The Govt has been too adamant and egoistic to hear the suggestions of the common people. Not only that, it appears extremely detached from the actual situation of the common people. Raising the fare unilaterally by 100% at a time like this is unacceptable.

SPYF, on behalf of common people of the state, request the Govt to immediately withdraw the recent fare hike. We also place the following demands and suggestions to the Govt:

1. To start SNT bus services from and between all the important towns and bazaars of the state without raising the fare.

2. To keep the hike in vehicles fare taxis and service vehicles within 1.3 times the normal fare

3. To Provide sizeable economic relief package to the drivers.

4. To give one-time relaxation in several taxes levied by the state to the non-private, non-Governmental vehicles

5. To send advisories to the banks to give relaxation of six months in paying instalment as well as in the interest so charged to the drivers who have bought vehicles on loan.

SPYF is optimistic about the Govt considering the above suggestions for implementation. We also hope the Govt will immediately withdraw the astronomical 100% rise in fare in the interest of lakhs of common people in the state.