How implementation of GST is making life easy for lorry drivers on India’s national highways.
Jaspal Singh is in a hurry trying to deliver machinery parts to Ashok Leyland’s Hosur unit in Tamil Nadu that he has brought from Mumbai. But he manages to spare a couple of minutes to say how the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) has helped him.
“We don’t need to waste much time at (commercial) checkposts after July 2017. Now with the introduction of e-way bill from April, things are more smooth,” says Singh starting his truck at the Hosur Regional Transport Office (RTO) checkpost.
Singh had left Mumbai on 26 May and on 28 May morning, he was in Hosur. “Before GST, it would take five days to a week coming through various check posts,” he says as he drives away to the nearby Ashok Leyland unit.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi launched the goods and services tax (GST) – an indirect levy system – from 1 July 2017 as a unified tax system to save the people from different taxes levied by the central and state governments. Before 1 July 2017, the taxes levied on a particular product differed from one state to another, making it necessary for each state to put up commercial tax checkposts on the borders to ensure the due taxes were paid to respective state governments. This affected inter-state transport movements. With the ushering in of the GST, the inter-state movement of goods has been made easy with these checkposts being dismantled.
“Hassles for us have come down after the introduction of GST,” says V Kumaresan, transporting engineering goods from Karnataka to Sivakasi. “Now, we only stop at RTO checkposts to stamp entry permits. It takes hardly a minute. We definitely save a couple of hours after the checkposts have been closed,” he says.
A local “all-in-all” driver K Kumar has interesting insights on how things have changed since the GST was implemented last year. “I drive school vans, mini-vans, vans and trucks, depending on what other party needs. I have driven up to the border in Kashmir. It takes nearly 10 days to go from Hosur to the border but now with GST, we are able to save at least two days,” he says.
Earlier, trucks could be held up at the checkposts even for days. “There have been instances when trucks had been held up at the checkposts for 20 days when there was problem with the paperwork. One wrong entry and we are in for big trouble. It could be the TIN number or some other thing,” says Kumar, adding that the commercial tax officials always had some error to point out.
“Now, goods are not loaded until the bills raised by the buyer and seller match. That way, there’s some safety,” he says. Pointing out at the closed checkpost at Hosur, he says at one point of time, this was crowded and vehicles would queue up. “All that is past now,” Kumar says.
But there are a couple of fallouts. One is that small vendors who did business when the trucks queued up aren’t getting the same response. “Some known drivers come and still take food from us. Others, it depends on the time of the day when they pass through this place. But certainly, business is down by half,” says R Muruganandam, a vendor near the closed Hosur checkpost. Drivers say that they find these wayside food vendors useful since eatables are cheap and they don’t need to undergo the agony of people staring at their stained clothes at restaurants.
Kumar has an interesting tale on some difficulties for the truck drivers post-GST. “Almost all our vehicles have General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and the owners keep a tab on the truck movements. If they find the vehicle has stopped, then they call up the driver and question them why it has halted,” he says.
The GPRS monitoring and GST implementation are indirectly contributing to check the spread of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). “With GPRS tracking and no hold-up at checkposts, these drivers cannot visit commercial sex workers, who usually are found at these places,” says Kumar.
This is an encouraging development since India ranks third among nations with most number of HIV carriers.
The scenario with regard to truck movements on Tamil Nadu-Karnataka border is no different on the Karnataka side too with the Attibele checkpost totally deserted.
D Viswanathan, a truck driver for 30 years, who is part of a team transporting onions from Nashik to Madurai, says things have improved since July last year. “Driving from Maharashtra to Tamil Nadu, you know the number of checkposts we have to cross. Now, time and money are saved. From Maharashtra, we are definitely saving at least two days,” he says.
While, no doubt, a lot of time is being saved, Viswanathan says lorry owners are saving at least Rs 500 per checkpost that has been closed now. “There are various expenses of truck operators that are being saved now. There are at least eight checkposts from Tamil Nadu to Maharashtra. And there have been instances when drivers themselves would take the owner for a ride by asking a colleague to tell that it had been held up as the authorities were seeking bribe. In that way, drivers can’t mislead the owners anymore,” he says.
V Anbazhagan, transporting eggs from Namakkal in Tamil Nadu to Bengaluru, says depending on the hour of the day, truck drivers are saving time. “If I come to the checkpost early in the morning, I would spend nearly 20 minutes to half an hour at the checkpost. If it is later in the day, it could be one hour or two hours,” he says, adding that at the Walayar check post on Tamil Nadu-Kerala border there have been instances when he has spent one full day waiting for clearance to enter Kerala.
“Importantly for me, I need not bother about demands made on me by these checkpost guys. Once (before July 2017 ) a checkpost inspector asked for 10 eggs that I was transporting. I told him that I cannot give since I had to account for each and every egg in my truck. So he inserted a sharp rod in the consignment that damaged an entire tray of eggs saying he wanted to make sure the consignment contained eggs. Then, he added I would learn a lesson now,” Anbazhagan recalls.
Truck drivers say there are random checks by the authorities to ensure there is no foul play. “We are not bothered or scared of these checks because we have the necessary papers and documents,” says Kumaresan.
With the Centre implementing the GST from July 2017 and e-way bills becoming a reality from April this year, truck drivers are heaving a sigh of relief from all the hassles they had to undergo earlier. Time and money are being saved in this move of the Modi government and barring a few, there aren’t major complaints.