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Monday Musings: Why can’t Govt tame pvt. bus operators?

The government has failed to take firm steps to prevent private bus operators from inflating ticket prices during the holiday season.

pune Updated: Nov 05, 2018 14:48 IST
Abhay Vaidya
Abhay Vaidya
Hindustan Times, Pune
Pune,Monday Musings,Maharashtra State Transport Corporation (MSRTC)
As against ₹1,500 for an off-season Pune-Nagpur ticket of a private luxury bus, the rates during Diwali have been raised to a whopping ₹3,000 to ₹4,000, with an indiscriminate jump of 100% to 250%(Rahul Raut/HT PHOTO)

Will the common man get no relief from exploitative fares charged by private bus operators for long distance inter-city travel during the holidays?

With the Diwali season having set in, there is obviously a rush to go to one’s hometown for the festivities. However, such is the situation that people travelling from Pune to far-off cities in Vidarbha, Khandesh, other parts of the state, and neighbouring states like Goa, are forced to pay exploitative rates for to-and-fro travel during the holidays.

As against ₹1,500 for an off-season Pune-Nagpur ticket of a private luxury bus, the rates during Diwali have been raised to a whopping ₹3,000 to ₹4,000, with an indiscriminate jump of 100% to 250%. In contrast, the ticket prices of buses run by the Maharashtra State Transport Corporation (MSRTC) have been raised by barely 10% of the off-season rates.

The situation is similar in other states such as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu where there are no fare restrictions on buses with contract carriage permits.

As far back as 2011-12, Bombay high court, acting on a public interest litigation from city-based advocate Asim Sarode, had directed the state transport department and the regional transport office (RTO) to fix a ticket range for private bus operators.

On another occasion, the High court had assigned the task of fixing fares during the holiday season for private bus operators to the central institute of road transport (CIRT) . The CIRT had submitted its recommendations and based on it, the state government allowed private bus operators to charge a maximum of 50% more for each kilometre as compared to MSRTC buses.

A few months ago Satish Sahasrabuddhe, additional transport commissioner introduced a toll free number in Mumbai asking people to file complaints in case they were being over-charged by private bus operators.

In Pune Vinod Sagre, deputy RTO had convened a meeting with private bus operators recently and warned them against charging in excess of the set limit of 1.5 times the ticket price of MSRTC buses.

The point is, if there are specific rules and regulations in place to prevent private bus operators from exploiting passengers, why is the government not implementing these rules strictly? Why are senior transport officers issuing warnings to bus operators and waiting for complaints from passengers when instead they can themselves conduct spot checks and cancel the permits of errant bus operators as was promised by Diwakar Raote, transport minister ?

It is absolutely clear that the government is just not serious about acting on this issue. The same problem has arisen year after year and all that the state transport department has done is to issue warnings and promise action.

These are ineffective, cosmetic measures and what the government needs to do is to take stern action through spot checks and permit cancellations.

The government’s failure to do so gives ample scope to suggest that it is content with half-hearted measures to deal with hapless long distance passengers with inflated ticket prices.

First Published: Nov 05, 2018 14:47 IST