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Maharashtra: School Bus Owners Association demand 30% fee hike as schools to reopen from Jan 24

Last week, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the Transport Department’s proposal for a 100 per cent waiver in motor vehicle tax for school buses from April 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021.

Shashank Rao | Updated on: Friday, January 21, 2022, 11:33 PM IST

Photo: Representative Image
Photo: Representative Image
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The school bus owners have made certain demands as schools in all likelihood is to resume from January 24, though their buses will come on the road only from February. The association of school bus owners wants that their buses should operate at full capacity plus they will go for a 30 per cent fee hike starting February 1. This comes at a time when Covid cases are still strong and children too are caught in its tangle.

On January 21, the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) stated that they have sent a letter to the state government and Transport Department stating that the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs) are not giving them an appointment for giving fitness certificates to their buses on grounds that there is no Government Resolution on tax relief announced by the government.

This is primarily one of the reasons for school buses coming on the road from February 1. Moreover, barely 25 per cent of the total 12,000-odd school buses in Mumbai is expected to be on road.

“We have requested our members to restart running school bus service from February 1 at full capacity only as we expect only 25 per cent or so of the bus fleet to be in running condition. When BEST buses, local trains and airlines can run at full capacity, then why are we asked to run at 50 per cent capacity? From Monday, our staff will be sitting at schools to guide parents on resumption of school buses,” said Anil Garg, president, SBOA.

A hike in bus fees will surely burn a hole in the pockets of parents. The school bus owners claim that if they operate at 50 per cent capacity then they will be forced to further hike school bus fees by another 20 per cent.

Gayatri Shah, a parent from Mumbai said, "I know for many parents it's really unfair. The whole world has changed and everything has become difficult, schools are not opening and the least worry is the school bus thing. We just want our kids to go back to school."

Mrs Shah was not sure whether the school her child goes to has agreed to the hiked bus fares. Another parent said, “I am not even sure whether I am going to send my child by the school bus.”

A few principals refused to comment on this issue at this stage.

Earlier this week, Minister of State Aditya Thackeray confirmed that all schools in the city for classes pre-primary to Class 12 would be reopened from January 24 with Covid SOPs. The local bodies will decide on the situation in their districts and reopen schools accordingly.

Last week, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the Transport Department’s proposal for a 100 per cent waiver in motor vehicle tax for school buses from April 1, 2020, to September 30, 2021.

The decision was taken to provide relief to school bus operators against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. The department charges a motor vehicle tax of Rs 100 per seat per year. This means for a 40-seater vehicle, a tax of Rs 4,000 annually is recovered. The government will lose a revenue of Rs 8.5 crore due to the proposed waiver.

With school reopenings scheduled for January 24, schoolbus owners have now come forward with certain demands, though their buses will re-emerge on roads only from February. The association of schoolbus owners wants its buses to be allowed to operate at full capacity and a 30 per cent hike in their fee, starting February 1.

On January 21, the School Bus Owners Association (SBOA) said it had sent a letter to the state government and transport department stating that regional transport offices (RTOs) were not giving them appointments for fitness certification for their buses on the grounds that the government had yet to notify a resolution on tax relief.

This is one of the primary reasons for schoolbuses not hitting the roads until February 1. Moreover, barely 25 per cent of the 12,000-odd school buses in Mumbai, is expected to be on road. “We have requested our members to restart running schoolbus services from February 1 at full capacity only as we expect only 25 per cent or so of the fleet to be in running condition. When BEST buses, local trains and airlines can run at full capacity, then why are we asked to run at 50 per cent capacity? From Monday, our staff will be present at schools to guide parents on the resumption of school buses,” said Anil Garg, president, SBOA.

The demand for a 30 per cent hike in bus fees is expected to burn a hole in parents’ pockets. However, schoolbus owners claim that if they operate at only 50 per cent capacity the hike will escalate by 20 per cent. Earlier this week, Maharashtra Minister for Tourism and Environment Aaditya Thackeray confirmed that all schools in the city, starting from pre-primary to Class 12 would reopen from January 24, with Covid SOPs. The local bodies will decide on the situation in their respective districts and reopen schools accordingly.

Last week, the Maharashtra Cabinet approved the transport department’s proposal for 100 per cent waiver in motor vehicle tax for schoolbuses from April 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021. The decision was taken to provide relief to schoolbus operators in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. The department charges motor vehicle tax of Rs 100 per seat per year. This means for a 40-seater vehicle, the annual tax is Rs 4,000. The government will lose Rs 8.5 crore in revenue due to the proposed waiver.

Reacting to the SBOA’s demands, Gayatri Shah, a parent from Mumbai said, “For many parents, it’s really unfair. The whole world has changed and everything has become difficult, schools are not opening and the least of our worries is the schoolbus issue. We just want our kids to go back to school.”

Another parent said, “I am not even sure whether I am going to send my child by the school bus.”

A few school principals refused to comment at this stage, stating that their school managements were yet to discuss the issue of schoolbuses.

(With inputs from Chaitali Dharamshi)

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Published on: Friday, January 21, 2022, 11:33 PM IST