In a concerning trend during the Ganpati festival in the Konkan region, private bus operators have been charging exorbitant fares, leaving passengers with limited alternatives for their journey.
Despite government regulations permitting private operators to charge a maximum of 1.5 times the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) fare, many commuters alleged fares more than double that amount.
Passengers, faced with limited alternatives and a desire to reach their destinations, reluctantly pay the inflated fares.
Transport authorities have established a helpline for passengers to lodge complaints against these operators, but reports of overcharging remain largely unaddressed by the Regional Transport Offices (RTOs).
When contacted a senior official of the state transport department said, “A dedicated helpline for the complaints against overcharging by private bus operators has already been created, but we have not received any complaint yet. If someone complains appropriate action will be definitely taken.”
The Ganpati Festival is a major event in Konkan, attracting thousands of celebrants from Mumbai, Thane, and Navi Mumbai to their ancestral villages. While railway and state transport corporations have announced additional services, including 200 train services and over 3000 special bus services, private bus operators capitalize on the surge in demand during the festival period.
The MSRTC fare from Mumbai Central to various Konkan destinations, such as Kankavli, Ratnagiri, Chiplun, Sawantwadi, and Malvan, ranges from ₹400 to ₹745. Despite warnings from transport authorities, private bus operators have been charging passengers between ₹2000 to ₹2500 per seat, depending on the destination.
Lack of alternatives
Passengers like Sudhir Kulkarni and Rajesh Kamble, who have experienced these exorbitant fares, express their reluctance to file complaints due to a lack of alternatives. They believe that if they report overcharging, private bus operators may refuse to book their tickets, and government-operated MSRTC buses and special trains are already fully booked.
Private bus operators defend their pricing, citing the one-sided nature of Ganpati Festival traffic. They argue that empty return journeys necessitate higher fares to cover operational costs.