The Badals’ misusing their political power to benefit own transport companies has made their Punjab government unsure about putting the bus-route-permit data on official website.
On Monday, state transport secretary Anurag Aggarwal had stated that the entire data, including the registration numbers and bus owners’ names, would be on the government website. On Thursday, the Punjab and Haryana high court had to issue the state government and Badals’ Orbit Aviation company a notice to come clear on regulating the public transport system.
Besides the route permits for the stage carriage buses, the office of the state transport commissioner (STC) also regulates the inter-state private bus service, which covers the tourist permits that transport companies misuse for ferrying daily passengers to destinations such as the Delhi international airport, Ganganagar (Rajasthan), Amritsar, and Abohar from SAS Nagar mainly.
Moga bus in question
The Orbit bus that a girl was thrown off near Moga after being molested by the staff was one of these tourist coaches running between Ganganagar and Moga. However, senior officials in the state transport commissioner’s office here said no private bus had been issued the ‘stage-carriage’ inter-state permit.
The first-information report (FIR) lodged at Baghpurana did not mention the bus route. In SAS Nagar, the office of the Indo-Canadian bus service on Thursday denied that its luxury Volvo and Mercedes buses had been ferrying passengers to Amritsar and Abohar routes until last Sunday when the entire fleet of the Badals’ was taken off road after protests at Moga and elsewhere in the state.
The modus operandi
The STC had issued only 65 ‘tourist bus’ permits, one for each bus, for inter-state travel for a group starting together. These buses can’t ferry individual passengers, yet 20 of these in the name of Indo-Canadian had been doing stage carriage in violation of the All-India Motor Vehicle Act. It helps the bus owners with tourist permit multiply the earning from each seat by running the coach as passenger bus.
Indo-Canadian manager Hardeep Singh Arora acknowledged that they took individual passengers to the Delhi airport aboard tourist-permit luxury coaches.
On Wednesday, the transport department updated its website with notifications related to amendments in the rules made in the past 10 years. The list showed only 20 “monopoly routes” for Pepsu Road Transport Corporation (PRTC) across the state.
The list includes permit categories and tax clauses, but no route permits. Transport secretary Anurag Aggarwal puts the onus of updating the website on the state transport commissioner. STC Ashwani Sharma and additional STC Harmel Singh, when contacted, said the process was on, and the details would be online any minute.