Private buses go off road in Himachal Pradesh, public on receiving end
Demanding an increase in the bus fare, private bus operators in Himachal Pradesh shut down their services on Monday, giving the commuters a harrowing time in figuring out to arrange other modes of travel.
The private bus operators gathered at the main bus stand in Shimla in the morning and began their strike.
The strike had a huge impact in Shimla town and other urban areas as around 3,500 buses went off-road. Although the Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) floated extra buses to ease the situation, they largely remained overcrowded.
The bus operators are citing losses due to increasing fuel prices and demand that the bus fares be increased by at least ₹5 to ₹10.
Office goers and schoolchildren were affected the most. Moreover, the strike also led to traffic jam on the main circular road and other roads connecting Shimla town as people used their private vehicles to commute. Many people hired taxis and pooled private vehicles to reach their destinations.
“I walked four kilometres from Vikasnagar to reach Sanjauli,” said Dinesh Kumar, a salesman. The strike also impacted transportation to Rampur, Chopal, Jubbal Kotkhai and Theogh in Shimla district.
“I had to drop my kids at school in a taxi,” said Rakesh Chaudhary, a resident of a village near Nagrota Bagwan town.
Another commuter Ram Pal in Jawali area said he reached late for work as the bus did not come. He complained that there is no HRTC bus that plies on his route.
Rajesh Prashar, bus union president, addressed the protesters and said, “Our strike will continue for indefinite period. It has become difficult for private bus operators to meet the expenses as the prices of diesel have increased enormously.”
In 2013, when diesel was ₹46 per litre, the government had increased the bus fare by 30% but now when the price has crossed ₹76 per litre, there is no increase in bus fare,” he said, demanding subsidy on diesel prices.
“The government should give us subsidy for us to be able to provide cheaper transportation to public,” he said.
Further, the private bus operators threatened to intensify their agitation. “In case the government does not pay heed to our demands, we will resort to traffic blockade,” they said unanimously.
The bus operators are also demanding that the government rolls back its decision to disallow buses on roads that are more than five years old.