CHANDIGARH: In a first major jolt, the Punjab Government on Saturday cancelled 7,531 route permits of buses owned by over 100 companies in the State. Former deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal and other politicians of both Shiromani Akali Dal and Congress, who have a major stake in the transport business, are expected to be affected by this decision.
Sources said that these permits have been cancelled as private bus operators were plying their buses 15 to 24 km beyond the approved schemes. The State transport department had on March 8 issued orders to all the four Regional Transport Authorities to prepare a list of companies which had permits to run mini buses, AC coaches, super integral coaches, HV AC coaches and buses plying on inter-state routes covering short distances up to 15 km.
It is learnt that during the SAD-BJP regime from 2007 to 2017, the State transport department had, in gross violation of rules, renewed 1,840 bus permits and also given them extensions besides giving most of these route permits.
The Punjab government took this decision in view of orders passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court, after the court had in December 2016 rapped it for not framing new policies to regulate the allotment of bus permits after a PIL had been filed. It had also directed the government to cancel old permits as per its 2012 order.
In December 2012, the court had quashed the Punjab Mini Bus Service Scheme, 2010 and declared the issuance of such bus permits and their renewal illegal.
Sources said that despite many permits being cancelled, the transport department has decided to allow these buses to ply to avoid public inconvenience till the new transport policy is framed and fresh permits issued, which will take around six months time.
Of the 7,531 permits cancelled around 2,000 belong to mini buses. It is learnt that in most of cases these private buses were plying on routes where State-owned transport buses should have been the major operator resulting in a loss of revenue to State-owned bus transport undertakings by Punjab Roadways, PUNBUS and PRTC.
It is expected that State-owned transport companies will be revived from the red as they have been in loss for many years due to the monopoly of influential private players.
In its first cabinet meeting last Saturday, the new Punjab Government led by Capt Amarinder Singh had announced to bring a new transport policy to the State.