In order to resume the services of around 250 swanky buses under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme, the West Bengal Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation (WBTIDC) is planning to reduce the EMI by 40% for the bus operators.
Operators have withdrawn 250 buses worth Rs 20 lakh each from the roads after they failed to pay an EMI of Rs 22,000 to the WBTIDC, the nodal agency, which acts as a bank guarantor of these buses. More than 50% of 512 buses under the JNNURM are gathering dust for months instead of plying on the roads.
With the directive of the Calcutta High Court, the state government had decided to ply these new buses via private operators in 2009 in order to phase out the 15-year-old buses that were polluting the city.
WBTIDC chairman Dinesh Bajaj held a meeting with the operators on Saturday and assured them that they would try to reduce the EMI amounts to resume the services. “I held a meeting with several bus operators yesterday (Sunday). We are looking into their demand of reducing the EMI amount. The government will take a decision in this regard,” Bajaj told HT.
“We have demanded that the government bring down the EMI amount at least by 50%. Otherwise it will be difficult for us to ply the buses. A large number of buses are gathering dust and being exposed to rain in different parts of the city for the past three years. Many operators have stopped paying EMIs because of financial loss,” said Pradip Kumar Ghosh, president of the JNNURM Bus Operators’ Welfare Association.
The state transport department has withheld a certificate of fitness to many JNNURM buses as the operators have failed to pay the EMI amount. “Operators have written to the transport department and offered to hand over the vehicles to the government. The huge EMI amount is unbearable for us. But the government is sitting idle. All the 250 buses are lying unused in different areas like VIP gate of Salt Lake Stadium, Belghoria, Moyna in Barasat,” Nirmalendu Roy, secretary of the association, said.
“The government should look into the non-profitable routes where many of our buses ply. How can an owner of a bus, that plies on a non-profitable route, bear the burden of a huge EMI when the fuel prices are on the rise virtually every month?” he asked.
WBTIDC will send a proposal to the finance department seeking the latter’s nod in this regard, sources in the transport department at Writers’ Buildings said.
Some members of the association said that these buses were not viable for city roads and are too expensive to maintain. Manufacturers of these buses do not have their service centres in Kolkata. Tata Motors has its sole service centre in Barasat. It is very difficult for an owner of south Kolkata-based bus to get his vehicle checked at Barasat service centre burning a fuel cost of Rs 1,000, they added.
A senior official of the transport department said that the government of India, which is supposed to provide 35% of the total cost of a bus under the JNNURM scheme, is not sending the money regularly.