Complaints of overcharging on rise: Consumers’ Forum

Though Electronic Ticketing Machines (ETMs) for the private city buses were launched with much fanfare here in mid-August, nearly 20 per cent of the city buses are not using the machines now, pinching the commuters hard.

There are 93 private city buses operating on 16 routes in Udupi city. One city bus makes 20 trips for short distance destinations such as Manipal, whereas it makes 14 to 20 trips to distant destinations such as Hiriyadka, Patla and Bengre.

The ETMs were introduced by the Udupi City Bus Owners Association after persistent complaints by passengers of overcharging and non-issuance of tickets. The Association purchased 110 ETMs and gave an ETM each to conductors of the 93 buses. The remaining ETMs were kept in the Association Office to be provided if any of the given machines malfunctioned.

The Association also introduced the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) cards for daily commuters to do away with the misuse of coupons which were being provided till July. These RFID cards have to be swiped in the ETMs to register the journey. There are 3,600 RFID holders in the city, while coupons are being issued to students.

According to K. Suresh Nayak, president of the Association, nearly 20 per cent of city buses were not using the ETMs. Some conductors were using the ETMs for selected trips only. The RFID cards become meaningless when ETMs are not used. Some bus owners were also not cooperating with the Association, Mr. Nayak said.

“We have received complaints of overcharging by conductors. The money goes straight into the pockets of the conductors. We urged the Transport Department to take action against the erring bus conducts. But they cite lack of staff to inspect the buses,” Mr. Nayak said.

According to the Udupi Consumers’ Forum, the complaints of overcharging and non-usage of ETMs in city buses were increasing.

Arun Kumar Singh, Regional Transport Officer, said his department was conducting inspections and collecting fines from bus conductors not using ETMs. There was “groupism” in the bus owners’ association and one group had not reacted favourably to the ETMs, Mr. Singh said.

“We will be calling a Regional Transport Authority (RTA) meeting shortly, and discuss the issue both with the Association and the Consumers Forum,” he said.

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