By:Mohan Lal Verma
The National Green Tribunal today granted partial relief to taxi and luxury coach operators plying in Manali-Rohtang Pass areas of Himachal Pradesh by staying environment compensation tax on the vehicles, but refused to relax 1,000 vehicle limit to the scenic pass.
“As per the clause (f) each of vehicle which is permitted to Rohtang Pass for tourism purpose shall pay environmental compensation at the rate of Rupees 1000 for Petrol vehicle and Rupees 2500 for Diesel vehicle and clause (g) which says each vehicle which carries more than six passengers would be liable to pay compensation of Rupees 5000, as environmental compensation is stayed till next date of hearing,” a bench headed by judicial member U.D Salvi said.
It has posted the matter for further hearing on June 8. The bench, however, refused to relax the limit of 1000 vehicles to 2000 per day to 13,050 feet pass as demanded by the taxi and luxury coach operators saying it does not find any substance in their contention.
During the hearing, Additional Advocate General Surya Narayan Singh who submitted the state’s reply said lot of tourists are pouring in to Manali and at least for this season, the limit of 1000 vehicles should be relaxed to 2000 vehicles. The bench, however, made it clear that if necessary, it will give only interim relief at this stage till the disposal of the main petition and asked the petitioners’ counsel how many members were there in taxi operators’ union and the luxury coach operators association.
Senior advocate Vibha Dutt Makhija, appearing for taxi and luxury coach operators, said while the taxi union had 1621 members, the luxury coach operators association had 190 members, mostly having diesel vehicles. “Grave injustice will be done to these tourist vehicle operators if the limits are not relaxed to 2000 vehicles at this stage as it is their only way to earn livelihood,” she said.
The senior advocate contended that vehicular traffic on Rohtang Pass was only four months and even if pollution level is kept at higher end, the vehicular emission was far less than cities in plain areas. She submitted that all vehicles are subjected to pollution checks before being allowed to enter Rohtang area and three taxes, including green tax, are already imposed in compliance with the High Court order.