Loss-hit bus operator cancels contract, buses off roads in Bhopal
Bhopal’s public transport system has come to a virtual standstill as a loss-hit bus operator has ended its contract and stopped plying the vehicles even as drivers have threatened a strike over government’s plans to transfer the contract to another operator for a lower royalty.bhopal Updated: Oct 13, 2016 09:03 IST
Bhopal’s public transport system has come to a virtual standstill as a loss-hit bus operator has ended its contract and stopped plying the vehicles even as drivers have threatened a strike over government’s plans to transfer the contract to another operator for a lower royalty.
Coming days ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the city, the termination notice by Prasanna Purple, which runs 150 red buses, has put the BJP government in a spot.
Modi is slated to unveil the Shaurya Smarak (war memorial) in Bhopal and later address ex-servicemen at the Lal Parade Ground in the state capital on Friday. He is also likely to visit a Jain temple in the city to meet community seer Acharya Vidyasagar.
The city’s buses were taken off the roads for road-repair activities ahead of his visit, but have not been brought back as Prasanna Purple said it is likely to withdraw its services any time despite giving a termination date of October 16.
The operator has cited major losses for the reason behind pulling out of the pact with Bhopal City Link Limited, (BCLL), the state government’s nodal agency for public transportation.
The contract, which was to end in 2018, stipulated a payment of Rs 6,600 royalty per bus per month earned from ticket sales. Prasanna Purple has refused to pay this in view of their mounting losses as they have found it difficult to maintain the buses, whose condition has been deteriorating.
According to sources, its 150 buses were plying since 2010 and were serviced after 50,000 km, instead of 20,000 km, due to which operational costs shot up.
“We have had a lot of issues with BCLL. We had put forward certain conditions to operate the buses, but they did not agree to any. Therefore, we have decided to move out of this contract,” Prasanna Purple manager Subhash Bachhkaiya said.
Though BCLL is facing annual losses of `11.7 crore, it has decided not to levy any penalty on Prasanna Purple, and will look for another operator, sources said.
“We know that the maintenance of these buses is very high. Thus, we are not increasing the royalty,” BCLL PRO Sanjay Soni said, adding that they are trying to resolve the issue before the PM’s visit.
He said that the agency had floated tenders and got two operators.
Jagdamba Company and Ananta Motors, which have been selected, could be given the contract for 100 and 50 buses each, he said, adding that “we might consider bringing new buses now”.
Jagdamba currently operates 40 buses and pays a royalty of `100 per bus per month.
Another operator Capital Operator runs 35 buses at a royalty of `4,000, and has said that it too may terminate its contract as it finds sustaining the business difficult.
“The inventory has become too costly. These buses are expensive and bus dealers do not have all the parts available in Bhopal. While Prasanna had to give a higher royalty (than us), we too have to pay a lot. The new operators have to pay very less,” Capital Operators owner Charanjit Gulati said.
Bus drivers of Prasanna Purple have opposed the move to transfer the contract to another operator and threatened to go on strike demanding advance payment of salaries, which amount to `8,000-10,000 per month.
“We can accept the change in bus operators only if we are assured that we will be paid the same salaries. We want our wages in advance because we are not sure how the bus operations will run after the handover at such a low royalty,” said a driver, who refused to be named.
Soni however said the drivers’ demands were very irrational. “No one pays wages 45 days in advance and the drivers are adamant on this point. We will find a way out hopefully,” he said.