KOZHIKODE: The recently-implemented Goods and Services tax (GST) is touted as a gigantic step towards tax reform in the country. But no one would have expected it to have a real jumbo connection.
The nation-wide rollout of the single common tax system has inadvertently come as a blessing to the elephants of Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary(WWS) and two other reserves in Nilgiri biosphere reserve, spread across three south Indian states.
The long queues of hundreds of goods-laden vehicles at Muthanga commercial tax checkpost, located on the interstate road cutting through the sanctuary, has become history following the implementation of GST. Now, elephants’ migratory corridor and their path to Noogu river (the lone water source in summer) are freed of traffic snarls.
It had been a long-pending demand of environmentalists and forest department to shift the checkpost from inside the sanctuary. Over 500 trucks, from Karantaka, used to cross the checkpost.
“With the state commercial tax department doing away with vehicle checks, the long queues have disappeared. Earlier hundreds of vehicles used to line up before the checkpost, creating a barrier till Ponkuzhi temple, obstructing animal movement through the crucial wildlife corridor,” N Badusha, president of Wayanad prakruthi samrakshana samithi, said.
Animals from adjacent Bandipur and Muthumala tiger reserves pass through the wildlife corridor to reach Noogu river, which runs parallel to the highway.
Also, the checkpost is close to the migratory route of elephants to the forests north of WWS and further to the Nagarahole forests in Karnataka.
“Following the concerns raised by the forest department, the government had decided to set up an integrated checkpost in eight acres outside the sanctuary at Kallur way back in 2008. But the plan never materialised,” he added.
According to forest authorities, the long vehicle queues, which used to be around 2km, on the NH stretch passing through the WWS at Thakarappadi during peak hours has been obstructing even the passage of jumbos through the two main elephant corridors in the area.
“Dumping of plastic waste and cooking by truck drivers near the checkpost also used to disturb the wildlife,” said N T Sajan, warden of WWS, hailing the GST implementation.
Commercial tax authorities at Muthanga checkpost said that they have been directed to not to stop vehicles at the checkpost. “Now, we just collect the copy and declaration forms,” said Anil Kumar, inspector at Muthanga checkpost said.
Though checkposts of excise department and motor vehicle department are also located inside the sanctuary, the disturbances caused by them to wildlife are relatively less as vehicle queues are absent at these checkposts.