Private bus operators in Ujjain have withdrawn the 25% rebate in fares for incurring loss by providing “hospitality” to few pilgrims boarding buses for Simhastha Kumbh.
After state transport minister Bhupendra Singh persuaded operators of Ujjain and Indore divisions to extend rebate for Simhastha, operators announced that they will charge 25% less on prescribed fair rates applicable for the month-long Simhastha on all buses plying between the two divisions.
However, operators resumed charging normal rates after about three days of facilitating rebate. One Kailash Sharan, who travelled from Indore to Ujjain on Tuesday, said the bus conductor charged him Rs 55 and when the passenger insisted to pay Rs 40, the fare after rebate, he was asked to get down.
Ravi Shukla, president of Ujjain-Indore Bus Operators Union, admitted that the rebate has been withdrawn as buses are running with half the occupancy due to low footfall during Simhastha. “A recent hike in diesel prices has added to the cost. There is no rush of pilgrims as hardly 10-15% of additional passenger traffic was registered in the first 10 days of Kumbh,” said Shukla.
More than 200 buses carry about 15,000 passengers daily between Ujjain and Indore. The department had arranged to put additional 1,500 buses on shahi snan days but the surprisingly low turnout enabled hardly 50 buses to run, sources said. Operators on other routes have reportedly not offered the rebate for even a day citing low traffic.
Deputy RTO and personal officer to transport minister Yogendra Rana first feigned ignorance about the issue but later supported the operators citing rise in diesel price and low turnout of pilgrims.
“We have appealed to the operators for providing rebate and they responded positively. But the rebate was voluntary. It’s for them to decide whether or not to give concession,” he added.