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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Private buses continue to fleece passengers in Pune

Absence of enforcement and accountability of government agencies gives private operators the freedom to openly violate the state directive.

pune Updated: May 08, 2018 15:34 IST
Nadeem Inamdar
Nadeem Inamdar
Passengers are left to suffer at the hands of the private bus operators who overcharge them, even as the government agencies do little to enforce the law.
Passengers are left to suffer at the hands of the private bus operators who overcharge them, even as the government agencies do little to enforce the law. (Sanket Wankhade/HT PHOTO)
         

Despite the state government’s directive restraining private operators from overcharging passengers, nothing much has changed. The private van operators are continuing to tax the passengers, thanks to the absence of enforcement and accountability of the government agencies.

The passengers are left to suffer at the hands of the private bus operators who overcharge them, even as the government agencies do little to enforce the law.

Hindustantimes

The passengers commuting to destinations like Nagpur, Amravati, Aurangabad and Nanded from Pune by private buses during summer season have been paying exorbitant prices for their travel. Many believe that the huge demand for tickets to certain destinations and limited availability of buses has led to the scenario of overcharging and exploiting passengers. MSRTC rates for a few major destinations are between ₹ 500 and ₹ 750.

The irate passengers have been complaining about this situation for a long time, now but their pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The enforcement authorities have not taken any step on the violators so far.The Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat,a prominent rights body has termed the act of overcharging passengers as an open loot of the citizens and has blamed laxity on the part of the enforcement authorities in curbing the malpractice.

Suryakant Pathak, activist and president of Akil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat,“We fail to understand as to why the government authorities are not taking action.”

Lalita Kulkarni, trustee of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (MGP) said that creating awareness is the need of the hour. “The affected passengers must united and demand fares in accordance with the rules and regulations of the government ,” she said.

Saleem Mulla, coordinator for association for Pune NGOs said that it was difficult for the commuters to unite against overcharging as it is a seasonal issue.

Sameer Khandagale, a commuter said, “There is no fear of action among the private operators and hence the law is violated with impunity. We demand that the citizens must wake up to this serious issue and help all the commuters in their fight for the right fare ,” he said.

Earlier, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed by city-based advocate Asim Sarode in the Bombay high court in 2005 and had raised the issue of exploitation of passengers by private bus operators.

The Bombay high court had directed the state government to take appropriate steps to issue notification fixing the minimum and maximum fare of contract carriages.

Balasaheb Khedekar, president of Pune District Luxury Bus Association said that the government applies double standards while dealing with the bus operators. “Regular buses are run on normal rates and if they are full, then we arrange special buses to certain destinations in accordance with the requirements of the customers. State Transport does not have to pay toll but we have to pay a heavy toll of around ₹2500 per day for Pune-Kolhapur-Pune ( for one day return) and deposit passenger tax worth ₹2500 in addition to diesel and driver costs. We want parking space by the government which has not given to us till date. We have taken a rented space for parking and are paying ₹ 300 per day. Besides, the operators pick up points en route charge us ₹200 per passenger. Hence, there is no option but to rise charges. There is a need for the government to look into our problems holistically ,” he said.

The government resolution issued on April 27, 2018 states , “The Central Institute of Road Transport (CIRT), Pune, was directed to study the services being provided by private buses. A report was submitted by CIRT regarding the same. It divided the buses into various categories like air conditioned, non air conditioned, sleeper, sleeper and seating among others. The tax for each category of vehicles, the fuel cost and maintenance cost among others is different for different vehicles. It has been decided that the private contractors will not be able to charge passengers more than 50 per cent per kilometre compared to the ticket rates of MSRTC buses.”

Customers should not be taken for a ride: Suryakant Pathak

Suryakant Pathak, activist and Pune district working president of Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat, always gives his voice for the consumers whenever they are exploited for business interests. He shares his ideas about consumer rights, protection and the way forward with Nadeem Inamdar.

What is your take on the overcharging of passengers by private bus operators?

The state government has issued a Government Resolution(GR) in this regard. The Government Resolution clearly states that the private operators cannot charge more than 50 per cent of the government buses rates. The regional transport office( RTO) is not taking any action to curb the overcharging of passengers by private bus operators. The commuters should also raise their voice whenever they are forced to pay extra for the travel. If RTO fails to action, then we will approach the government with a fresh memorandum seeking strong and suitable action in connection with our demands. Our contention is that the commuters must pay what is fair and should not be taken for a ride.

What has Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat done so far ?

We had given a memorandum to the government and accordingly, the state has taken action and issued GR to protect the commuters. The fares decided by the government must be implemented, which is sadly not happening. RTO not implementing the GR is a cause of concern. Our body is engaged in educating citizens about their consumer rights. We also ensure that their rights are protected.

What is your mission?

Our mission is to make the society free from all types of exploitation. We want to develop a consumer movement by cultivating moral values, dedication, trusteeship and love for nation. We create consumer awareness by educating people about their duties and rights. We also solve consumers grievances in consumer forums and demand justice for consumers. Citizens can directly approach us with their complaints.

First Published: May 08, 2018 15:15 IST