RAIPUR: Private bus owners went on an indefinite strike in Chhattisgarh on Tuesday to press for their demands, including hike in bus fares, causing hardships to thousands of commuters in various parts of the state.
Around 12,000 private buses went off the roads, leaving several commuters stranded at bus stations in major cities, including Raipur, Bilaspur, Durg and Rajnandgaon.
Many commuters were seen trying to arrange for alternate modes of transport.
Passengers at the Pandri bus stand in the state capital Raipur were seen hiring taxis and auto-rickshaws for long route destinations.
"After arriving here from Mumbai in a flight, I reached the bus stand to board a bus for Bilaspur. I was unaware about the strike. I called up some taxi operators, but they asked for hefty amounts," a passenger told reporters.
Another commuter said he hired a taxi for Rs 2,000 to go to Saraipali (Mahasamund district) from Raipur, while travelling by bus would only cost around Rs 250.
Meanwhile, members of a private bus operators' association staged demonstrations in various districts, including in Raipur.
"The operations of all 12,000 buses, including those engaged in inter-state transport, have been suspended. We will continue the strike till our demands are not fulfilled," said Sayyad Anwar Ali, president of the Chhattisgarh Yatayat Mahasangh (CYM), a key body of bus private operators in the state.
He said they have already informed the state government that bus operators were still bearing the brunt of lockdown imposed for different periods since the COVID-19 outbreak last year, and the rise in diesel prices further compounded their problems.
"In such a situation, the government should consider our demands, particularly to hike the passenger fare," he said.
He said they also want scrapping of the rule which states that vehicle owners will be exempted from payment of tax for a maximum period of two months for vehicles which are not in use.
As per the rule enacted in 2009, an operator has to pay tax for the vehicle even if it is not in use after the relaxation periof of two months, he said.
"Due to COVID-19 restrictions, several private buses were not operated for more than two months during the past one-and-a-half year. Therefore, operators are demanding that this rule be done away with," he said.