Gatidhara was launched by the Trinamool Congress government in 2014. But it failed to make an impact under the supervision of the Labour Department.
Amid the economic slowdown in the country and slump in the automobile sector, a scheme of the West Bengal government to help unemployed youth to buy vehicles for commercial use has got a pat from the industry.
According to Federation of Automobile Dealers Association (FADA), the scheme — Gatidhara — not only helped jobless youth to earn, but also prevented the auto industry in Bengal from contracting.
Gatidhara was launched by the Trinamool Congress government in 2014. But it failed to make an impact under the supervision of the Labour Department. A year later, in 2015, the scheme was re-launched by the state Transport Department.
Under the scheme, the state government provides a one-time grant of 30 per cent of the cost of a three or four-wheeler commercial vehicle not more than Rs 1 lakh to an applicant, who has to be a resident of West Bengal and unemployed. The applicant has to pay at least Rs 1 lakh as the initial down payment with the rest of the vehicle’s cost to be paid in monthly installments.
According to the Transport Department, since its re-launch in 2015, the government has given the one-time grant to 38,204 jobless youths and spent Rs 343.88 crore.
In the initial fiscal year, the government spent Rs 52 crore only for the subsidy cost, but as the popularity of the scheme rose with the advent of app-based cab services like Ola and Uber in Kolkata, the government has been spending more.
In the last financial year, it spent Rs 93 crore and is expected to spend over Rs 100 crore by the end of the current fiscal year. (See Box)
The scheme’s other beneficiary has been the beleaguered automobile industry. Recently, the Federation of Automobile Dealers Association (FADA) praised the West Bengal government for the project and urged the Central Government to start the subsidy scheme in every state.
“Nationally, the automobile sales have gone down on an average of 25 per cent but in West Bengal, it has remained flat or nominal de-growth. This is because of the state government’s Gatidhara project. The scheme helped the auto dealers a lot with consistent sale of vehicles for commercial purpose. Government representatives also regularly discuss with auto dealers and tried to ease the business. That has helped to boost the industry. That’s why we praised the state government for the unique project,” said Sohon Misra, a member of FADA and automobile dealer in Kolkata.
“If the government spends Rs 200 crore, then automatically the market will get a boost. Due to the state government’s Gatidhara initiative, there has been no stagnation in the commercial vehicle market. It is motivating the investor to invest more and we have asked the government to spend more this year,” said another Kolkata-based auto dealer Siddhart Bhandari.
Sources in the government said that in the next one year, they are targeting to extend the benefits to 12,000 jobless youths — 2,000 more than the current year target of 10,000 — and plans to give the one-time grant to e-rickshaw buyers.
“We will give subsidy for purchasing e-rickshaws only when the applicant is a woman or belong to Scheduled Tribes or both. It will help boost the village economy,” said an official of the Transport Department.