“What are you carrying ” a toll booth operator on Singhu Border near Narela in Delhi shouts at a driver of a two-axle lorry.
“What are you carrying ” a toll booth operator on Singhu Border near Narela in Delhi shouts at a driver of a two-axle lorry. “Eggs,” the driver yells back amid puttering sound of trucks and other commercial vehicles covered in a thick haze of dust.
Disbelief writs large on the driver’s face and altercation ensues over the green cess and the list of exempted items. The toll supervisor, who swears by the Supreme Court-issued list of exempted commodities, looks puzzled, consults with the traffic police and reads a notice board, saying: “No economic compensation charge (ECC) on essential items like vegetable, fruit, milk, cereal and petroleum products.” After long deliberations, he declares that the lorry has to pay the green cess. The driver, left with no option, resignedly pays Rs 820, including Rs 120 as toll tax.
Almost six days after the Delhi municipal corporation concessionaire, SYMR Consortium, started collecting the green cess, there is still confusion at Singhu Border toll booth on Thursday night whether commodities such as bread, eggs, poultry, honey, medicine and CNG-fuelled vehicles are exempted from the tax. Officials attribute it to the lack or absence of hoardings in neighbouring states and signages at the toll booth.
About the uncertainty, CSE executive director Anumita Roychowdhury says in future there will be more clarity on the exempted list as new issues are emerging. “Four months given by the apex court are essentially meant to look into fresh problems. The tax collection will be refined further,” she said.
“Raw food is exempted, but not processed food,” says Bhure Lal, chairman of Supreme Court-appointed Environment Pollution Control Authority, and denies rumours that CNG-fuelled vehicles are spared from the green cess net.
After the Supreme Court’s order, SYMR started collecting the green cess from trucks entering Delhi on the intervening night of November 6-7. The court has imposed the cess on an experimental basis for four months. Earlier, the contractor had refused to collect taxes citing “practical problems” as it was scheduled to collect Rs 700 from light commercial vehicles and Rs 1,300 from trucks with three-axles and above from November 1.
“Today, the trucks are less in number due to the festive season. On normal days, traffic snarl stretches up to two-five km largely due to haggling and heckling,” rues a SYMR supervisor at Singhu Border.
The traffic police finds itself in an unenviable position as it does not have jurisdiction on Haryana border to smoothen traffic jams.
“Across the border, we see traffic snarls, but our hands are tied,” a policeman laments, adding that the green tax has made the waiting period longer for trucks. He also contends the traffic police may not be able to handle thousands of trucks every day due to staff crunch and aggressive drivers. “I think the contractor must hire CISF to help toll operators,” he quips.