VEHICLE ENTRY tax, which had been discontinued since the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), to make a comeback in Pune, Khadki and Dehu Road cantonments from August 1. Terming it “irritating” and a “big headache”, residents, activists and even officials have criticised the move, drawing fire from the Shiv Sena and the NCP. The BJP, meanwhile, has maintained silence on the matter. “Yes, the decision on restarting the vehicle entry tax will be taken during Monday’s board meeting. If board members give an approval, we will restart it from August 1,” said PCB CEO D N Yadav.
Both Khadki and Dehu Road cantonment boards echoed the statement. According to senior cantonment officials, Ministry of Finance has conveyed to Ministry of Defence that the vehicle entry tax was not merged with the GST and, therefore, it can use its discretion on the said tax. Cantonment officials said they have received a green signal from the Ministry of Defence on the matter. After the GST was kicked off on July 1, vehicle entry tax collection within the jurisdiction of all the three cantonments in Pune, as well as across the country, had come to a halt.
This happened even as the BJP-led central government promised to do away with multiple taxes in the country and minimise taxation headache for citizens. While the residents of Pune had celebrated the disappearance of vehicle entry tax, which some said was “forcible payment to do-nothing cantonment boards”, cantonment boards had lamented that the tax was their main source of revenue and its disappearance has hit their development plans. The boards had then written to the Ministry of Defence, seeking clarification on the tax. In fact, the Dehu Road Cantonment Board has already passed a resolution to restart the tax.
PCB collects around Rs 10 crore revenue as vehicle entry tax, while DCB and KCB collect between Rs 10-20 crore. Political parties such as the Shiv Sena and the NCP have decided to take up the issue in parliament. Strongly opposing the move, Sena MP Shrirang Barne said, “It is surprising that the government, on the one hand is talking about doing away with multiple taxes, and on the other hand, it is persisting with taxes like the vehicle entry tax, which are a big headache and a nuisance for the travelling public.”
Barne added that he will raise the issue in during the Lok Sabha session this week. “The Shiv Sena will not allow collection of vehicle entry tax in cantonment areas,” he said.
The NCP, too, has expressed its anger at the proposed move. “The Centre can easily compensate the cantonment boards in the country. The state government is anyway doing in case of LBT. While it is harping on easing public headache of a multiple tax regime, it seems one after another the taxes are either making a comeback or persisting,” said Vandana Chavan, MP and president NCP’s city unit.
Chavan said NCP will hold protests if the cantonment boards go ahead with their plan. “The booths set up by the cantonment boards cause immense hardship for the travelling public,” she said, adding that she will take up the issue in Parliament. BJP, which heads the Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporation, has an MP and several MLAs in the regions. BJP MP Anil Shirole refused to oppose or support the move. “I will have to collect information and then comment on it…” he said.
Petrol dealers, especially, have debunked the move. “We are shocked at the plan to restart one of the most irritating taxes collected from citizens. We condemn it and would urge (cantonment) board members not to pass the resolution,” said Ali Daruwala, spokesperson of Pune Petrol Dealers Association. Another dealer added that though the tax is collected exclusively from commercial and tourists vehicles, the government should live up to its promise of one-tax system.
Khadki-based activist Ashok Morwal said, “While it is true that cantonments have run out of resources, but that does not given them the right to cause headaches to honest tax-paying citizens.” “Besides, what right does a cantonment board like KCB has to set up a booth on the Khadki stretch of Pune-Mumbai highway and collect entry tax at a site not even constructed by it. The road was constructed by PMC, by spending Rs 23 crore. The KCB always baulked, even refusing to repair potholes on a road, which has claimed 200 lives in the last 10 years. After PMC has concretised the road, KCB has come to collect taxes. This is just ridiculous,” he added.
Domnic Lobo, former vice-president of KCB, said, “It would make sense for the cantonment board to seek compensation from the central government rather than causing unnecessary stoppage of vehicles on roads, which will lead to traffic snarls.”
Additional GST Commissioner Pune Surendra Mangoskar said, “The GST is levied on goods and services and, therefore, entry tax is outside the purview of GST. But, if the cantonment members oppose it, the board cannot restart it.”