Bengaluru has always been welcoming to people from across the country. But after the recent amendment to the Karnataka Motor Vehicle Taxation Act, 2014, non-Karnataka registered motorists are having a tough time in the City.
The amendment has clearly inconvenienced the migrant population in the State and brought together like-minded people, who have started their fight for equality through a Facebook page called ‘Justice for Non-KA Registration Vehicle Owners’.
In its interim order, the Karnataka High Court ruled that the decision taken by the State government under the amendment, which insists upon the payment of lifetime tax for such vehicles, doesn’t fit into the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act.
Right now, the owners of non-Karnataka registered vehicles cannot use their vehicles for more than a month in the City unless they pay a lifetime tax, which can go up to 14 per cent of the vehicle’s ex-showroom price. But people who fall under this category don’t intend to stay quiet. They have taken to social networking sites to vent their anger and express their displeasure.
The movement was initiated by Waseem Memon and the Facebook page now has over 30,000 followers, all residents of Bengaluru. A native of Hyderabad, Waseem has worked across India and has been living in the City for the last three and a half years. “I drive a 1942 jeep, which has an Andhra Pradesh registration. One day, I was caught by RTO officials in Yeshwanthpur and they demanded to see the tax invoice. They took a long time to let me go,” he says.
Since Bengaluru is a melting pot of different cultures, Waseem made a Facebook page and there were a number of grievances and queries pouring in. With the support of a large group of people, the movement has eventually reached the court. “We filed a Public-Interest Litigation (PIL) with the Supreme Court in October 2014. But the case was disposed to the High Court and we got a stay during the month of January,” says Waseem.
While the PIL is yet to gain momentum, people continue to be harassed on the road. They confess that there are many cops, posing as RTO officials, who demand a tax invoice. Prakash, a professional from Andhra Pradesh, rides an AP-registration bike.
He says, “Yes, I have been stopped a lot of times mainly by traffic cops who demand for documents. But I have got away with this by bribing them! Why should I pay a lifetime tax when I won’t be staying in the City for more than six months?” With this issue trending online, social media has turned into a weapon of sorts.
Waseem adds, “There are 30,000 people who signed the petition within six months and the case is still on. But the officials, who jump in front of our vehicles, haven’t stopped.” Waseem adds that his initial campaign led to another online campaign called ‘Drive Without Borders’.
“The virus has spread to other states as well. This led us to starting a common movement ‘Drive Without Borders’, which is not just restricted to the residents of Karnataka. People are facing similar issues in Telangana, Kerala and Jammu as well and we are fighting the battle together.”
While the online struggle continues, youngsters have mixed opinions on the issue. Suraj, a lawyer, says, “I believe there should be no discrimination when it comes to road tax. We are all citizens of the same country. When somebody living in the neighbouring state is paying only a fraction of the road tax that I do, it infringes on my fundamental right to be treated with equality. A state is obligated to promote equality and unity in diversity, not create disharmony and discontentment with such rules.” However, those like Raaj Gowda, a professional, support the new amendment to the law.
“This is the right thing to do as these vehicles escape paying the fine amount when they violate traffic rules. Also, there are many antisocial elements who use non-KA registered vehicles and there are also times when they use double registration to carry out illegal activities.”