THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The lockdown has been a bumpy ride for private bus operators. Though the government gave the nod to resume services, strict social distancing norms and passengers’ fear of contracting the infection have led to private bus owners incurring heavy loss. On account of this setback, private bus operators are now contemplating to halt operations.
Most private bus owners are of the opinion that plying buses with only 50 per cent capacity is difficult. Though there are 19,496 private buses in the state, hardly 2,000 buses are currently operating. Most private buses are under the G-Form, wherein they won’t have to pay road tax if they don’t operate.According to bus operators, with just 50 per cent of passengers, they suffer a loss of `2,000 everyday. According to M B Sathyan, president of Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Federation (KPBOF), there are 12,600 buses under the federation, of which only 1,200 are operational. “Drivers and conductors are working for half their salaries, as we hardly generate any revenue nowadays. The government should intervene immediately, or else we may have to shut shop,” said Sathyan.
Kavirajan B, a member of Private Bus Operators’ Association, Attingal division, said: “About 60 per cent of private bus owners in the district are under the G-Form and have stopped services. Since we don’t have enough money for fuel or for paying our employees, we had to stop services to Attingal. Ever since the lockdown restrictions were lifted, people have been using their own vehicles due to fear of the infection. This has resulted in a dip in the number of passengers relying on private buses.”
The hike in fuel prices is also an issue. It is becoming difficult to pay loan instalments with almost no business, he addedMeanwhile, private bus operators said that although the government exempted them from paying tax till June, it has not benefited any of them. “Fuel alone costs `1,500 to `2,500 everyday, besides other expenses. The transport department should provide us with subsidy so that we can continue our operations, “ said T J Raju, president, All-Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Association. Raju added: “We have requested the transport department to provide an exemption from taxes till September. If they don’t, we will have no other option but to stop services.”