Private bus owners in West Bengal divided over resuming services
The West Bengal government has allowed inter-district movement of state transport undertaking and private bus services from Monday, but the private operators are divided over recommencing services with a lesser number of passengers owing to the social distancing norms.
While the Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity on Sunday said that it will recommence services in some routes on an experimental basis, the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates said it will not be possible to run buses with only sitting capacity passengers on current fares as that would lead to losses.
In a meeting of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates on Sunday, it was decided that a memorandum will be given to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikary on Tuesday, seeking formation of a regulatory body for revising fares, its general secretary Tapan Banerjee said.
Rahul Chatterjee, secretary of Bus Minibus Samannoy Samity (coordination committee), another body of bus owners in the state, said that buses will be run on some routes in Kolkata and the districts from Monday on an experimental basis.
They, however, demanded that the government consider an increase in fares so as to keep the services going without causing losses to the owners.
“As it is, the buses have been idling since March 22.
A lot of money has to be spent to make these roadworthy again.
We seek the government waive road tax for the period that the buses have not been plying and also seek the Centre’s intervention in reducing insurance premium,” Chatterjee said.
He said that the government should also provide its infrastructure for sanitising the buses at its various facilities and also provide face masks and gloves and hand sanitisers to the staff.
The West Bengal government, in an order issued on Saturday, allowed intra-state (inter-district) movement of government and private buses from June 1, with passengers not more than the actual seating capacity of the bus.
“No passenger shall be allowed to travel standing in the bus. All passengers shall wear face masks and gloves during the entire journey,” the order said.
It has not said anything about restarting of inter- state bus services.
West Bengal Transport Corporation is already running buses on 40 city routes, while SBSTC and NBSTC are running buses in the districts in south Bengal and north Bengal.
All these STUs have already recommenced inter-district bus services from May 27.
Private bus operators have stayed away from resuming services as their demands for increasing fares were not met by the state government.
The private bus operators had demanded a nearly three-time hike in fares, claiming that carrying only 20 passengers at a time in each bus as per the government directive for maintaining social distancing norms owing to the coronavirus pandemic would lead to huge losses for them.
The state government had earlier allowed only 20 passengers in a bus at a time.