KOCHI: Though private bus services resumed in the state in June after the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions were relaxed, the owners are finding it difficult to continue the operations. This, according to them, are mainly due to the low patronage, increasing operational cost and non-exemption of taxes. Though there are 12,600 private buses registered under the Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Federation (KPBOF), only 1,890 buses are conducting services.
In the wake of the pandemic spread, most of the people are now hesitant to opt for public transport like buses, which has resulted in many buses getting fewer passengers than the allowed the number under social distancing norms.“Only 15 per cent of the buses have resumed services after the lockdown. The bus operators, who resumed the services, thought they would be given tax exemption for July. However, they have been asked to pay the taxes as they have commenced the services. The scenario is very bad as city services are hardly getting `300-500 per day in collection. The bus operators will have to pay the wages of the driver, cleaner and conductor. In addition, the increase in fuel prices is another major blow,” said Kerala Private Bus Operators’ Federation (KPBOF) president M B Sathyan.
He said unless the government gives tax exemption for August and September, the existing bus operators too will stop services.“Already, many bus operators have submitted Form G. As per the rules, a bus operator who submits Form G for buses that are not operating will not have to pay the tax. That means the existing 15 per cent of buses too will stop services by August,” he said.
In northern Kerala, especially in districts like Thrissur, Malappuram and Kannur, private buses are the major mode of transportation for the common man. However, even in those areas, the buses are not able to fetch the minimum number of passengers.The bus operators have also been asked to ensure that the driver’s cabin is separated from the passenger area. “More than the driver, it is the conductor who has close contact with the passengers. The employees are equally worried,” he added.
Talking to TNIE, K B Suneer, Ernakulam district secretary of the Private Bus Operators Association (PBOA), said most of the bus operators, who have opted for a moratorium on their existing vehicle loans, will have to start repayment from August.
“They are not getting any revenue for the repayment of loans. In Ernakulam, before the lockdown, a total of 630 city services were conducted everyday. Now, there are only less than 50 buses which are conducting services. The number of containment zones is increasing everyday. For instance, Aluva, from where most of the services to the city commence, is under lockdown. Very few passengers are travelling to the city on buses. These are all clear indications that we will not be able to conduct services till normalcy is restored,” said Suneer.
Form G submitted
Many bus operators have already submitted Form G. As per the rules, a bus operator who submits Form G for buses that are not operating will not have to pay the tax. That means the existing 15 per cent of buses too will stop services