KOCHI: The majority of the private buses stopped services six months ago after the pandemic hit. Lying idle for such a long time has gradually led to the vehicles suffering damage. Unable to bear the maintenance cost which comes up to almost one lakh per bus, many private bus owners are now putting up their buses for sale. Over 100 buses have already been sold in the state. While most of them ended up in scrapyards, others were sold second hand to companies and organisations for private purposes. Those buses which have completed 15 years of service were also sold.
According to M B Sathyan, president, Kerala State Private Bus Operator’s Federation, many owners were forced to sell their buses due to the financial crisis. They are being sold at a meager rate of Rs 1.5 lakh after bargaining with the buyers.
“Although some bus owners purchased spare parts and tyres, they now have only two months left to pay back the merchants. It is impossible to meet the expenses without any business. So, they have no choice but to sell the vehicles,” said Sathyan.He added that though the owners have sold the buses, they have kept the permit hoping to benefit once services resume. The permit needs to be renewed every five years. Almost 85 per cent of private bus operators have submitted Form G to evade motor vehicle tax which is anywhere between Rs 30,000 and Rs 45,000 per vehicle.
“Out of my 12 buses, nine are under Form G. Six of them are past their insurance renewal rate, and renewing just one comes to around Rs 60,000,” said Raju T J, a private bus operator. According to him, the transport department or the state government has done nothing to revive the sector. In Kochi, out of the 2,500 private buses, hardly 200 are currently operating services.Meanwhile, many bus owners have turned to fish and vegetable vending and construction work to make a living.