VELLORE: With the Tamil Nadu government relaxing the curbs on operating buses, the private operators are keeping their fingers crossed as most of them find road tax and restrictions on seating capacity as major hurdles.
The private buses across the State are still off the road as the operators had not made up their mind on resuming operations.
“We had not operated buses during the lockdown, yet have to pay the road tax. When we have lost revenue, how can we pay the tax,” asks K Thangaraj, president, Federation Bus Operators Associations in Tamil Nadu.
The quarterly road tax for a varies depending upon the seating capacity of the buses but an operator has to pay at least Rs 35,000 for a single vehicle. The operators want a waiver of the road tax to ease the burden.
“The government should consider waiving the road tax at least for a quarter. It will help us manage the loss we have already incurred,” Thangaraj demanded.
The restrictions on seating capacity as part of the social distancing norms are another major hurdle the operators point out.
According to DR Dharmaraj, secretary of Federation of Bus Operators Associations in Tamil Nadu, “States like Kerala, Karnataka, and Rajasthan have permitted buses to run with full passenger capacity but not allowed in Tamil Nadu.”
“If run with half capacity, the returns will not be enough to match the operation costs,” he notes.
As per the social distancing norms, buses are allowed to run with 22 passengers in towns while a mofussil bus can ferry 30 passengers, industry sources said.
As many as 4,600 mofussil buses and 1,100 town buses are being run by private operators in Tamil Nadu except Chennai, Kanniyakumari and Nilgiris districts.
The surging diesel price also compounded the woes of private bus operators.
“Even during the pandemic period, the diesel price has been hiked by Rs 13 If we resume operations, it will incur huge burden,” rues an operator.
He lamented that government-run buses go without any penal action for violating social distancing norms or overloading but the authorities lay their hands only on private buses.
“The enforcement authorities do not care if a government bus is running with overload, but they slap fine only if we take more passengers,” the operator noted, adding that the crew has to face officers from different departments on the road including revenue, police, transport and health now.