The Bombay High Court has directed the Maharashtra government to file its response by January 24 on a PIL challenging collection of 15 paise surcharge on bus fare from every passenger for relief of Bangladesh refugees since 1971.
The other respondents to the PIL include Thane Municipal Corporation, Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and other transport bodies.
The PIL said that the 15 paise surcharge is being collected by the state since 1971 after the Indo-Pak war, so that the refugees could be provided relief by the government.
The PIL said that an RTI had revealed that an amount of Rs. 388.96 crore had been collected by charging bus commuters 15 paise surcharge on every ticket to provide relief to the Bangladeshi refugees.
The PIL said that this amount was lying idle with the state government and was not being utilised for the purpose it was collected.
The petition alleged that through RTI it had learnt that one of the reasons for increase in the crime rate in the city was that the refugees were indulging in such activities.
On one hand, no relief was being given to the refugees and on the other hand, they (refugees) were indulging in crime, the PIL further alleged.
The PIL demanded that the authorities should either stop charging the 15 paise surcharge or use this amount for a noble cause such as tackling drought and malnutrition and protection of women.