Truckers Say Woes Not Adequately Addressed By GST Rollout

Truckers say while there has been an improvement when it comes to the checkposts, there is much more that needs to be done.


GST rollout has reduced waiting time at toll plazas, truckers say.

Mumbai: The government claims the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will largely help truckers as it would remove bottlenecks along highways and reduce the time taken to travel across the length and breadth of the country. One month since the rollout of GST, NDTV undertook a journey on a truck from Mumbai to Delhi. While it took us almost the same time as earlier, truckers say there has been an improvement when it comes to the check posts, but there is much more that needs to be done. NDTV travelled the distance of over 1400 kilometres on a truck to conduct a reality check. 

A journey that earlier took 72 hours now takes 65 hours to complete. And the abolition of octroi -- a duty levied on goods entering a town or city -- has helped matters too. Trucks are clearing toll plazas in 20 minutes as compared to the one and half hours earlier. And the jams at entry/exit points have almost disappeared overnight. But corruption and harassment of truck drivers has not stopped. 

Bal Malkit Singh, whose Bal Roadlines runs a fleet of around 300 trucks across the country, told NDTV, "GST has given the transport industry a lot of hopes. It aimed to provide relief from commercial check posts, Regional Transport Office check posts and toll plazas across the country. We have not seen the relief we expected to see though GST. Yes there has been some improvement. We have cut the journey by a few hours but this four to five hours difference is not enough. RTO check posts have become the new haven for corruption."

Mr Singh's comment on RTO check posts was something NDTV cameras filmed but to ensure that the personnel guarding the check post did not spot the camera, the filming was done from an angle where it did not identify the officials taking bribes. "We have to pay them Rs 100 every time. If there is an over load or the vehicle exceeds the permitted height then they issue a challan.  They take this (Rs 100) for chai pani. They take this from every truck," the driver of the truck the NDTV team travelled in said. 

Another industry that seems to have been indirectly affected by the rollout of GST is the various roadside hotels and eateries that depend on the movement of trucks for business. They hope the situation will improve once the entire country's business establishments are completely covered by GST. Habib, a motel owner, told NDTV: "After GST, our business has been affected by 50 per cent. There is no traffic on the road. We dont know why there is not enough traffic on the road. After demonetization they should have given us at least a year's break to recover and then launched GST." Lalaram Jat, another motel owner, told NDTV: "There are problems with loading and unloading post GST. Lots of people have not got GST numbers. That's why we have seen a dip in business."

However the industry believes that GST will have a more positive impact and realise its true potential once the corruption at the RTO check posts is addressed. "Today our vehicles travel around 200 km a day. It can reach 400 km a day and this will lead to less time and more returns and logistics costs will be reduced which will help the economy," Mr Singh added. 

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