Demanding the immediate withdrawal of the hike in bus fares, the Punjab Congress on Friday said its (hike's) main beneficiary would be the ruling Badal family which had monopolised about 30% of the transport business in the state.
In a statement, state party spokesman Rajanbir Singh said the fare hike had been imposed on the already overtaxed people on the pretext of the increase in diesel prices, for which the Parkash Singh Badal government had always blamed the Centre. However, the irony is that the tax on diesel in Punjab is higher than in Haryana, while on petrol it is more than 30%, the highest in the country, said Rajanbir.
He said instead of increasing the bus fare and linking it to fluctuations in diesel prices, the Badal government could have reduced value-added tax (VAT) on diesel.
He said it was strange that the Badal government always criticised the UPA government for the hike in prices of petroleum products, but it had now indirectly admitted the role of market forces in determining their prices by linking bus fares to these fluctuations. This criticism by the Badal government smacked of political opportunism and was self-contradictory, he added.
Rajanbir stated that in the luxury transport business, the Badal family enjoyed virtual monopoly, while a majority of the routes for ordinary and air-conditioned buses in the private sector in the state were again with the ruling family. He said most of the transporters had been coerced out of this business by the Badal family.
He reiterated that the bus fare hike must be withdrawn and the hike in diesel prices be neutralised by reducing VAT to provide relief to the common man.