800 omni buses registered outside Tamil Nadu stay off roads

However, the reduction in the number of buses can potentially lead to an increase in fares in other omni buses over the coming weekend.
Image used for representational purposes only
Image used for representational purposes only

CHENNAI: Omni bus service is likely to be hit across the state with 800 omni and tourist buses registered in other states suspending their operation from Tuesday onwards. The Omni Buses Association has decided to withdraw the buses from operation after the state transport commissionerate declined to extend the deadline beyond Monday for re-registering the vehicles in Tamil Nadu and said it would confiscate the buses for permit violations.

The commissionerate had earlier extended the deadline from June 14 to June 18, keeping in mind the increased demand for omni buses and the bookings that were already made for the Bakrid weekend. With the weekend getting over, the impact of 800 of the roughly 2,400 omni buses plying in the state taken off road was not immediately felt. However, the reduction in the number of buses can potentially lead to an increase in fares in other omni buses over the coming weekend.

According to industry sources, omni buses pay a quarterly road tax ranging from Rs 30,000 to Rs 44,000 in Puducherry and Kerala, while in Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh, the annual road tax is only Rs 18,000. In contrast, to operate in Tamil Nadu, an operator must pay Rs 54,000 per month (total Rs 6.48 lakh per year) towards road tax for a bus with 36 berths. Additionally, the bus must obtain a temporary permit every seven days, which costs Rs 1,000.

However, to avoid paying the higher road tax, operators choose to register their buses in Nagaland and other northeastern states, where they can obtain an all-India permit for a nominal fee. These buses were issued contract carriage permits to operate only as tourist buses, but were functioning as omni buses with stage carriage permits, violating the rules.

In addition to the revenue loss, in a few cases, accident victims faced challenges in obtaining compensation involving buses with all-India permits operating in violation of permit rules. This prompted the transport department to take stern action.

A Anbalagan, president of the All Omni Bus Owners Association, said many buses were purchased through bank loans. “There were issues in obtaining no objection certificates (for cancelling the registration) from the states where the buses were originally registered. Since the state government has not granted additional time, we have decided to cease operating these buses for now.” The state government should consider expediting the re-registration of these buses, he added.

Transport Commissioner A Shanmuga Sundaram said the state is incurring an annual revenue loss of Rs 34.56 crore due to omni buses being registered in northeastern states like Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh and holding all-India permits. “The actions of these bus operators heavily impact the revenue of state transport undertakings and other omni buses that comply with transport regulations (of the state). Buses registered in other states will be detained,” he said.

Sundaram assured that around 1,600 omni buses registered within Tamil Nadu will continue to operate normally, ensuring no disruption to commuter transportation. He stressed in the event of accidents involving all-India permit buses, victims might be deprived of insurance benefits due to permit violations.

According to official sources, Tamil Nadu has 1,535 omni buses registered within the state that operate in compliance with permit rules. Additionally, there are 905 buses registered in other states with all-India permits, of which, 105 have now been re-registered in Tamil Nadu. The remaining 800 continues to operate in violation of permit rules.

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The New Indian Express