KOCHI: With traders in the state’s business capital here showing the pluck to defy attempts to turn the general strike into a total shutdown, the city’s private buses may soon follow suit if indeed things work out as per plan. As a first step, the district administration finally decided to hold talks with private bus operators to operate services on hartal days. The move by the district administration followed the concerns voiced by traders, who despite keeping their shops open in a collective show of gumption, found there were far few customers since there was hardly any public transport available on the strike days.
“ It is true lack of transport affected the business of shops which opened despite the national strike. Already a positive trend has been witnessed in the district. It is not possible to usher in major changes in a few days since we have to work with all the organisations to get over the hartal ‘hangover’. We will soon initiate talks with the private bus operators to operate services on hartal days to bring the markets to life,” said District Collector K Mohammed Y Safirulla.
According to the shop owners, the poor footfall during the strike days cost them dearly. “We have to pay salaries to staff whether or not there is business. Though several shops were opened on the second day of the strike, there were very few customers. If the public has no mode of conveyance, they can’t reach the shops. There is no point in opening the shops if the public doesn’t visit shops. The district administration should take steps to provide transport to the public on hartal days,” said a textile shop owner at Broadway.
However, the bus owners’ association members believe operating services on hartal days is easier said than done. “ We are ready for talks. But in reality, it will be pretty difficult to run services on hartal days. If something happens to the crew or passengers we will be held responsible. And if the vehicle is vandalised, again we have to foot the bill,” said Sathyan, Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Federation president.