THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Private bus owners have warned of an indefinite strike from December 21 if the government fails to accept their demand for raising the student concession fare. The warning came a day ahead of the transport minister Antony Raju’s meeting with the Justice M Ramachandran Commission on Thursday.
Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation (KSPBOF), the umbrella organisation of bus operators in the state, had demanded that the government raise the minimum bus fare from Rs 8 to Rs 12. They also demanded that the student concession fare should be hiked from Rs 1 to Rs 6. However, the minister is not in favour of a steep hike, even after the commission recommended that the minimum concession fare should be Rs 5. The government had held talks with student organisations who also opposed a steep hike. However, the bus operators wanted the hike to save the industry.
“The method used for fixing concession charges are arbitrary and are often at a disadvantage to the bus operators. Students constitute most of the passengers in private buses and there is no point in hiking the base fare without raising the concession fare,” said Lawrence Babu, chairman of Kerala State Private Bus Operators Federation (KSPBOF).
"A private bus which operates 300 kilometers in a day needs Rs 7500 for diesel which is Rs 2000 more than the pre Covid period. At the same time, the number of passengers has reduced. At present, students constitute 60 percent of the passengers while other passengers have found alternative arrangements during the lockdown. We need 94 students to find money for one litre of petrol. When KSRTC introduced bond services for students, they charged Rs 110 for a student to travel 10 kilometres. So the government also knows the actual cost of travel," said T Gopinathan of the All Kerala Bus Operators Organisation (AKBOO).
The bus operators were planning to hold a strike on November 8. But they deferred it on the assurance from the minister that their concerns would be addressed.