Tax waiver demand: Pvt buses in Punjab stay off road as operators go on 1-day strike
The bus and minibus operators under the banner of Punjab Motor Union also staged ‘dharnas’ at many places, including Amritsar, Patiala, Sunam, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara and Ajnala. The protesters carried black flags and raised slogans against the state government
Chandigarh/Bathinda/Amritsar: Private buses in Punjab stayed off the roads on Tuesday as their operators were on a one-day strike against the alleged failure of the AAP government to fulfil their demands, including waiver of tax for the Covid-19 pandemic period.
There are around 2,200 private buses in the state.
The bus and minibus operators under the banner of Punjab Motor Union also staged ‘dharnas’ at many places, including Amritsar, Patiala, Sunam, Hoshiarpur, Phagwara and Ajnala. The protesters carried black flags and raised slogans against the state government.
With private buses off the roads, commuters, including women and children, faced a lot of inconvenience.
Unlike buses of the state-owned undertakings, private and minibus operators are dominant in the rural routes as they ply in the interiors of the state. Besides the tax waiver, they are demanding a hike in fares and want compensation for the decision to provide free rides to women in the state-run buses.
At a protest in Patiala, Tejpal Singh, a bus operator, said that they had been demanding that the state government waive tax till December 2021 as they had suffered financially during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The private bus operators also said that the ongoing free bus service to women in the state-owned buses had also hit their businesses.
They said the state government should allow free bus service to women only on Saturday and Sunday in a week. “Because of free bus service to women, our business has been affected badly,” said a bus operator in Jalandhar, adding that the state government should compensate them.
Protesters also said that they had been demanding a hike in bus fares in the wake of an increase in diesel rates. The private bus operators said that they had already apprised the state government of their demands, but no action had been taken yet in this regard.
In Bathinda, private transporters blamed the Punjab government for ignoring their long-pending demands, including tax exemption and a hike in fares. District president of Private Bus Operators’ Union Napinder Singh said private operators are struggling for survival after Covid-19 restrictions were imposed in 2020. “The AAP should fairly assess the demands tabled by the private operators. The sector needs a financial bailout and adopts policies to encourage private players in providing better services,” said Singh.
Passengers had to bear the brunt as as private buses remained off the road and state-run buses were seen packed to capacity.
Another leader Baltej Wandar said with a significant surge in the diesel rates, the maintenance cost has also increased, and the bus fares are needed to be increased.
“Bus stand fee must be abolished and a package should be announced. Agitation will be scaled up if the state government does not accept our demands in a week’s time,” he added.
In Amritsar, private bus operators staged dharna at the Inter State Bus Terminus (ISBT) and Hussainpura Chowk. “The government should pay heed towards our demands as private buses are the backbone of public transport,” said Chaudhari Ashok Manan, one of the bus operators in Amritsar.