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Protests against bus fare hike in Tamil Nadu continues for fourth day

The hike that came into effect from January 20 has triggered protests from day one with people hitting the streets at many places besides venting their anger on social media platforms against the “steep revision”.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2018 18:12 IST
KV Lakshmana
KV Lakshmana
Hindustan Times, Chennai
Tamil Nadu,Bus fare hike,Tamil nadu strike
Government buses remain parked at a depot in Madurai following a strike by Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation. (PTI File Photo)

The protests against the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to hike bus fares spread to several parts of the state on Tuesday as college students and commuters poured out on the streets demanding a rollback.

Students held peaceful protests in different cities, including Chennai, Karur, Coimbatore, Madurai, Thanjavur and Tiruchirappalli, with several of them boycotting classes opposing the government move, police said.

Police in Madurai were seen trying to evict students, who squatted on the road to stop traffic as a means of protest.

“They can double the salaries of MLAs but for us, there is no such thing. For us, there is only torture as we now have to pay double of what we were to travel,” a regular commuter in the temple city said.

A protesting Communist Party of India (Marxist) activist in Madurai said it was shocking that the bus fare between Chennai and Madurai which was Rs 325 is now Rs 515. The nearly Rs 200 hike “is nothing but looting the public”, he said.

“We will face bullets but will not budge an inch from our stand. The hike must be rolled back,” he added.

The hike that came into effect from January 20 has triggered protests from day one with people hitting the streets at many places besides venting their anger on social media platforms against the “steep revision”.

The decision of the ruling AIADMK to increase the bus fares, in some categories twice as much, has also been condemned by the opposition and has also brought the political parties out protesting.

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) working president and the Leader of opposition in the state assembly MK Stalin wrote to chief minister K Palaniswami demanding a rollback of the fare hike, saying it has affected all sections of the society.

He said the government’s defence that the increase was affected due to a host of factors including the rise in fuel price, maintenance cost, salaries and pension and purchase of new buses to increase efficiency, was a “mere excuse”.

Stalin suggested measures such as streamlining the administration of transport corporations, operating buses on profitable routes and using advertisement for revenue generation to make them economically viable.

He added that instead of using such “practical” measures, hiking fares would not ensure the stability of transport corporations. The fare hike has severely impacted various sections of the society, including office-goers, and would further affect people already facing the general price rise, the DMK leader said.

His party has already given a call for a strike against the hike on January 27 and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) has said it will hold its state-wide protest programme on January 25. Activists of the CPI(M) are already showing their solidarity with students and daily commuters at protests in different cities, towns and villages of the state.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) leader Thol Thirumavalanan condemned the hike and said that it was a mindless decision of a government that does not care about the man on the street.

Demanding the immediate rollback of the hike, he said the strike will only intensify in the days to come.

The government, however, remained unmoved and asserted that there will be no rollback of the fare hike.

“Input costs have risen significantly. Price of diesel that was Rs 43 a few years ago today is Rs 63 per litre. There are other maintenance costs, increase in wage bills that make the fare hike absolutely essential,” state transport minister MR Vijayabhaskar said while speaking to reporters.

The hike comes after nearly a week-long strike by transport service staff, who were given higher salaries, adding to the operating costs of the loss-making bus services.

The last hike came in November 2011, under the then-chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who had come to power six months earlier and who did not hesitate to take unpopular but essential decisions that included a hike in milk prices.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 18:11 IST