Transporters strike over e-way bill, high toll collection and diesel prices

The e-way bill has evoked strong criticism from truckers, especially on ‘heavy fines’ imposed by authorities ‘on even a slight mistake in the filing’
With nearly 5 million trucks staying off the road from Friday, the supply of essential items, including vegetables, fruit and milk, was likely to get affected. 

Truckers across India are protesting against the introduction of the e-way bill, exorbitant toll collection at plazas and including diesel in the goods and services tax (GST). A meeting of representatives from the All India Motor Transport Congress with Finance Minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday failed to resolve the impasse.

“We were not satisfied with assurances given by the government and went ahead with our strike,” said G P Singh, member, All India Motor Transport Congress.

The GST Council is unlikely to take up the inclusion of diesel in the GST in its meeting on Saturday. Even much less-contentious issues, including natural gas and aviation turbine fuel (ATF), is not on the Council’s agenda. 

In the fourth month of its roll-out, the e-way bill has evoked strong criticism from truckers, especially on "heavy fines" imposed by authorities even if there was a "slight" mistake in filing the bill. The bill was introduced for inter-state movement of goods on April 1 across India and for intra-state movement of goods in a phased manner by June. It could be generated by the supplier or the transporter for movement of goods worth over Rs 50,000. 

“We are being charged exorbitant fines, sometimes up to 100 per cent of the cost of the consignment, even if there is a slight human error in the e-way bill. It is becoming difficult to work,” said Bhim Wadhwa, former president, All India Motor Transport Congress.

Developments in Madhya Pradesh irked truckers further. Earlier this week, the Madhya Pradesh High Court upheld a Rs 13.2-million fine on a logistics company for not filing a portion of the e-way bill. 

According to Pratik Jain, partner, PWC India, companies need to be more diligent and careful in generating e-way bills. 

Clear Tax Chief Executive Officer Archit Gupta said filling the e-way bill was not challenging, but fines imposed by authorities in the case of mistakes were severe. 

More than 130 million e-way bills have been generated, including over 60 million for intra-state movement of goods.

The finance ministry has come up with a list of grievance redress officers to address difficulties faced in implementing the e-way bill system. 

"The Central and state governments were likely to lose Rs 10 billion in revenue every day on diesel sales only, since the total tax collected was around Rs 38 per litre," the All India Confederation of Goods Vehicles Owner’s Association had said.

Besides, there is also the issue of arbitrary levy on truckers by toll plazas. “Of the 400 toll plazas in the country, around 288 were privately run, and they charged arbitrary levy from the truckers,” Wadhwa said.

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