Punjab has failed to implement its own transport commissioner's orders to give all bus operators equal halt time to pick up passengers.
It is a blatant violation to favour the Orbit Aviation, Dabwali Transport, and Taj Transport fleets owned by the ruling Badal family and some other private bus companies that belong to influential politicians. "Time table disfavours the operators who are not well connected," said Kamlesh Kaur, a private operator from Khanaura village in Patiala district, who has challenged this schedule in the Punjab and Haryana high court.
On April 18, 2007, the state transport commissioner had written to the regional transport authorities (RTAs) of Patiala, Jalandhar, and Ferozepur (HT has a copy) to prepare a time table that was fair to both private and government buses. The Badal-family-owned buses get a longer halt time than state-run Punjab Roadways and Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) coaches.
Even the less influential private operators are demoralised. The transport department makes the route plan in a joint meeting of private and government operators, and the respective RTAs then approve the time table. "The 2007 order was overruled, since some operators wanted three minutes of halt time, while the rest favoured seven minutes of stop," said Patiala RTA and additional state transport commissioner Harmail Singh Saroi.
How time table was altered
The time table is changed only in case of new permit or routes. Kamlesh Kaur, private operator who moved court, had stated in her petition that a month's notice was required before the move. No genuine reason, she said, had been given in the notices issued to vary the time table on many routes.
"We got no time to file objections or be heard, since the influential operators had formed a cartel and rigged the time table," she said. Former Punjab assistant advocate general Rajiv Kumar Sharda, an expert in transport litigation, said many private operators had moved the high court against the time table. "But the transport department has been twisting the rules to benefit the Badal-owned fleet. You can find out who the major operators on the time tables are," he said.