Hit by several roadblocks, Union minister Nitin Gadkari's dream project of introducing amphibious buses, that can both ply on roads and sail on water to promote tourism, is yet to see the light of the day.
Hit by several roadblocks, Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s dream project of introducing amphibious buses, that can both ply on roads and sail on water to promote tourism, is yet to see the light of the day. Not only the pilot dream bus is lying idle at India’s largest container Port JNPT, the plans of Punjab and Goa to run amphibious buses have gone off track due to lack of clarity over duty structure and fitness certificates. Ambiguity over duty structure, registration issue and unavailability of ramps at most suitable locations have stalled the dream project, multiple people in the know of the developments said. An amphibious bus imported by Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust at a cost of about Rs 3 crore about a year back is lying idle at the Port for want of clearances and ambiguity in rules, an official who did not wish to be quoted told PTI.
“Customs duty is an issue. No one manufacturers it in India. Certification for fitness for travel on road is another issue,” the official said, adding that marine certification is not an issue. Besides construction of ramp is another issue as best waterfront where the bus can be used to promote tourism near marine drive is not accessible due to check on construction of permanent structures, the official said. Also dredging is required as the bus needs at least 1.5 metre draft to navigate on water.
The bus imported by JNPT costs about Rs 3 crore but the Customs Department wants to levy a duty of about 225 per cent terming it a vessel, so prices are likely to go beyond Rs 9 crore, a source said. But the transport ministry insists that it is a bus and should be taxed at 45 per cent. Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Gadkari in April told Lok Sabha, “We (Centre) have ordered a water bus. But it is lying with the Customs. The Customs are asking for a duty of 225 per cent as they say it is a ship, while we are saying that there should be a 45 per cent duty on it as it is a bus.”
The matter, however, is pending with the Finance Ministry now after the Shipping Ministry approached it for waiver of import duty. Sources say the government plans to run it on Marine Drive and sea to promote tourism. Another government official said other amphibious buses bought by Punjab and Goa are suffering the same fate. The minister has asked for a chronology of events since purchase of the bus, a source privy to the development said.
Goa Tourism in April this year announced to soon launch a 32-seater amphibious bus to show tourists the hinterlands of Goa. Punjab too has purchased such buses. To promote water transport, Gadkari has been insisting on building more waterways and introducing innovative modes of transportation like amphibious planes, buses and seaplanes. Such buses are common in European and other countries.