Private bus operators kept their fleet off the road for a day in Madhya Pradesh's Indore division in protest against the transport authorities' plan to rework road permit rules, putting commuters to a lot of hardships in the wake.
The new permit rules are likely to restrict 32-seater operation to 75 kilometres, which the Prime Route Bus Owners' Association said, would hit them financially. At present, about 1800 32-seaters are operating in the 150 kilometre radius covering seven major districts of the Indore division.
Association president Govind Sharma said the permit restriction would adversely affect about 125 private operators from seven districts of the division. They are Burhnapur, Khandwa, Khargone, Dhar, Jhabua, Alirajpur and Barwani.
However, transport department officials said the plan to rework the permit rules was taken following a May 4 road accident in Panna district, Madhya Pradesh in which 21 people were killed.
The bus involved in the accident was reportedly operating in violation of transport regulations. The Madhya Pradesh transport department soon raised the penalty for rule violation by 10 times and decided to restrict pliability of 32-seaters to 75 kilometres. The department had recently invited claims and objections in this regard from the bus owners and associations across the state.
But, the Prime Route Bus Owners' Association tried to pre-empt the move by lodging its protest against the same by staging a one-day strike, officials said.
Bus services at Gangwal bus station in Indore remained completely paralyzed, while the strike got a mixed response at Sarwate bus stand. Most of the buses plying on Ujjain, Dewas, Khandwa and Bhopal routes continued the service as per schedule, as the operators from Ujjain and Bhopal divisions refrained from joining the strike.
However, hundreds of passengers were stranded at Gangwal bus stand, from where most of the buses ply to tribal areas. Some of the passengers had to take costly private cabs and vans and others had to take shelter in the "Raain Basera" (night shelter for poor) in the bus stand.
Sharma said over 8,000 32-seater buses are operating across the state would either have to buy 52-seaters to keep plying on the prime roads within 150 kilometre radius or withdraw from the business. He said, "Even if we manage to get 52-seater buses, it is not sure that we will get enough passengers on all prime routes, including remote areas. That means we would not able to earn enough money to continue our businesses."
Meanwhile, HT's attempts to contact deputy transport commissioner (Indore division) Sanjay Soni about the strike failed.
How new permit policy affects prime routes and operators?
As per the bus operators, after implementation of new permit norms, the prime routes as well as remote area routes may affects many folds as several 32-seaters buses went off-roads.
Presently 32-seater buses are plying between many district headquarters and major towns in Indore, Ujjain and few parts of Bhopal division. With new permit norms, this destination will automatically go out of small bus operators reach.
“We could only able to ply small buses upto Ujjain, Mhow, Pithampur or Dewas with implementation of new permit norms. More of that, many people prefer to go nearby destination like Ujjain, Mhow, Pithampur or Dewas by their own vehicle, instead travelling by bus, so is another concerned for our business,” bus operators said.