May be sign of a healthier political trend.
Setting a healthy political trend in Tamil Nadu, where the polity is deeply dominated by personality cult, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami on Tuesday received Opposition Leader M K Stalin at his chamber in the Secretariat. Stalin was being helpful towards the government to the extent of recommending a slew of steps to resolve the perennial crisis plaguing the transport sector.
Such meetings are rare in Tamil Nadu politics in which the rivalry among the head of the ruling party and those of the main opposition parties would be so intense. In fact, Jayalalithaa and M. Karunanidhi, who alternatively ruled Tamil Nadu for a quarter of a century between 1991 and 2016 after Jaya became CM for the first time, never saw each other eye to eye. This is the first time that Stalin is meeting Palaniswami in his chamber while he has held discussions with the latter's predecessor O Panneerselvam when he was Chief Minister after J Jayalalithaa's death.
Armed with a report prepared by DMK leaders on how to reduce loses and restore the transport department to its old glory, Stalin led a delegation of senior leaders to Palaniswami and submitted the document to him. We will convene another all-party meeting and discuss our next course of action. The Chief Minister received the report, but he did not commit anything, Stalin was to say after the cordial enough meeting.
The DMK Working President has been opposing the recent hike in bus fares by the Tamil Nadu government and had even rallied the entire opposition to protest against the ruling party.
In the report submitted to Palaniswami, the DMK recommended removal of existing taxes on diesel like VAT and levy 10 per cent GST, which will result in an annual savings of Rs 1,600 crore for state-run transport corporations, revenue generation through advertisements and courier services by transport corporations, and attaching buses which ply beyond 200 kms to the State Express Transport Corporations.
The government should also upgrade its luxury buses on par with private bus operators who mint by flaunting their services and allot Rs 1,000 crore every year in the Budget for phasing out of old buses and replacing them with new hi-tech vehicles are some of the other recommendations made in the report.
A five-member panel headed by former Union Surface Transport and Shipping Minister T R Baalu prepared the report. Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Stalin indicated that the government was non-committal on implementing recommendations made in his party’s report. The transport corporations suffer loses every day and have debts to the tune of `16,000 crore.
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