BHUBANESWAR: Even as bus operators of the State are yet to comply with fare reductions effected by the Government four months back, they have wasted no time in resorting to their pressure tactics seeking fare hike and implementation of an automatic fuel price-based fare fixation system.
Within hours of announcement of diesel price hike by the Centre on Friday, the bus owners threatened to go on strike from June 5 if the Government did not revise the fares or brought in a flexible fare fixation mechanism as per their demands within the date.
The State Government in February had cut fares by two paise across all categories but a major chunk of buses plying locally, particularly those between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack, has been brazenly continuing with the rates that were fixed when fuel prices were at their peak.
Despite the maximum fare between Bhubaneswar and Cuttack in an ordinary bus being Rs 16.53, local buses have been charging more than Rs 20. Almost a lakh commuters and passengers move between the two cities everyday and they are being openly fleeced for the past four months.
“Considering the blatant disregard for fares announced by the Government, which also seems to be helpless before them, the flexible fare system will serve a double whammy to the hapless passengers. The buses will lose no time in raising fares but will not reduce them in the event of fuel price reduction as we are already experiencing”, a commuter complained.
The Odisha Private Bus Owners’ Association has also admitted the lapses but stated that it was taking action against those found to be charging fare illegally.
“Although we have initiated action against erring buses when reported there are some who continue to take advantage of the passengers. The strike is, however, not solely on the demand for fare hike or flexible fare mechanism but on a 15-point charter of demands,” Association general secretary Debendra Kumar Sahoo said.
The Association has sought improvement of the bus stands and terminals in the Twin City and the major towns and cities and provisioning proper amenities and facilities before the Nabakalebara festival. Lakhs of people are going to travel by buses and use the bus stands during the festival and no step has been taken to improve their condition, Sahoo alleged.
The bus operators have also opposed a circular issued by Transport Commissioner earlier this month for suspension of driving licences of drivers in the event of any accident along with the owner’s permit.
“This is draconian. The DLs are issued by the RTOs after testing the driver’s skills and why should the owners be victimised during accident. If that is so, the Government should publish a list of certified drivers after proper verification by police and RTOs and the owners will take them from the pool”, Sahoo argued.