Hyderabad: Over 100 transport operators held a protest at the Regional Transport Authority (RTA) office in Khairtabad here on 18 June demanding the state government waive off the motor vehicle tax for two quarters for contract carriage vehicles and maxi cabs in view of the lockdown.

The president of Telangana State Cabs and Bus Operators Association (TSCBOA), Syed Nizamuddin, said though the country has entered Unlock 1 stage, the transport industry is still under an undeclared lockdown. He said neither corporate companies nor IT firms are hiring their vehicles.

Thursday's protest was unique in that instead of shouting slogans the transport operators gave flowers to the officials and requested them to consider their demands on humanitarian grounds. "In view of the lockdown, transport operators gathered in small numbers at the RTA office. We maintained physical distance and all of us wore masks," said Mr. Nizamuddin.

The police prevented the operators from entering the RTA office. However, RTA joint commissioner Pandu Ranga Naik, additional commissioner Ramesh Kumar, and other officials came out to meet them.

Mr. Nizamuddin feared that over five lakh people will lose their jobs if the state continues to neglect the transport industry. "Our vehicles are gathering dust in our garages. There are no clear signs of restoring normalcy at least till the end of September. Almost all of us have exhausted our savings to pay salaries, EMIs, rents, and other utility bills. We are just trying to stay afloat with the hope that things will become normal again," he said.

He said the transport operators had no money to pay the motor vehicle tax in advance. Many state governments like Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka, Odisha, Rajasthan, Pondicherry, and Kerala have exempted operators from paying the MV tax, he said, adding the entire transport industry in Telangana will collapse if the state government does not come to its rescue. The operators have had no business since 22 March, the day of the Janta Curfew which was later converted into a full-fledged lockdown.

The transport operators said they will intensify their agitation if the government doesn't provide some relief. Mr. Nizamuddin warned that the operators would park their vehicles in front of the RTA offices and district collectorates across Telangana if their demands are not met.

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