With Diwali approaching, the state transport department has asked private bus operators not to overcharge the passengers. However, the bus operators claim the government is only making things difficult for them.
Earlier this month, in a meeting with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, bus operators had asked for waivers in various taxes and solutions to their problems. They claim that intercity bus transit has revived by 75 per cent, and bookings are coming in. Out of the total 37,000 private buses in Mumbai, 12,000 are school buses, while 5,000 cater to the IT industry. Out of the remaining 20,000 buses, at least 75 per cent of them are on the road now.
“We see an increase in demand in two categories of travel. First are the small tourist cars, vans and SUVs. And second are the intercity buses plying from Mumbai, Thane to other cities and towns in Maharashtra and selected cities in neighbouring states,” said a member of Mumbai Bus Malak Sanghatana.
Private bus operators claim there has been a demand for bus routes travelling to Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Goa and Karnataka. There are also inter-city buses, leaving Mumbai and going to Pune, Nashik, Nagpur, Dhule, Konkan and other towns and cities within Maharashtra.
However, private bus operators feel such government orders are spoiling their credibility, as that is not the case everywhere. The fares for private bus operators are anywhere between Rs 700 and Rs 2,500 depending on the distance. This comes when the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) will implement a fare hike starting October 26 for all journeys operated by its 17,000 strong bus fleet.
“People are still reeling under financial stress. We don’t deny that there could be some black sheep in the fraternity who overcharge, but most private bus operators don’t exceed the 1.5 times fare higher than MSRTC, which is as per law,” said another private bus operator.
In a letter to CM Thackeray on October 5, the operators demanded subsidies in toll tax, petrol/diesel tax, road tax, motor vehicle tax, etc. They have also requested increasing the permissible lifespan of buses of Euro 4 and Euro 6, which includes school buses 12-15 years or more.
It is estimated that the total concession after waiving road tax would come to Rs 150 crore or so. Moreover, they claim that school buses are up for sale as schools aren’t taking the help of these bus operators. Even the school buses have come on the road, so the bus app operators introduce routes for office-goers.