They are making a killing by cashing in on their total monopoly on the roads
Private bus operators in the region have raised the hackles of the striking AP State Road Transport Corporation unions by showing what the latter calls ‘utter disregard’ for the ongoing agitation for Samaikyandhra.
While the RTC unions have declared an indefinite strike in support of their demand for a united Andhra Pradesh, the private bus operators, as is their wont, are making a killing by cashing in on their total monopoly on the roads. Many operators have jacked up ticket rates ‘to make hay when the sun shines’.
Public transport is the hardest hit with more than 12,000 RTC buses in the Seemandhra region confined to the bus depots. Despite irreparable losses suffered by the organisation, the union have gone ahead with the strike ‘to build pressure on the government to reassess its stand on Telangana.
“When cycle and auto-rickshaw operators who earn meagre income have voluntarily joined the stir, why should private bus operators who earn crores, mostly by fleecing the commuters, stay away from the agitation?” fumes Y. Venkateswara Rao, zonal secretary of the APSRTC Employees Union.
Telugu Desam Party leader Kesineni Nani, who operates a fleet of buses under the banner of ‘Kesineni Travels’, has particularly come under fire. “In the morning, he participates in a candlelight procession in support of Samaikyandra and in the evening, he freely operates his buses without even a twinge of guilt. What kind of commitment is it, we don’t understand,” ridicules Mr. Rao. “Our proprietor is doing his bit by taking active part in anti-Telangana programmes. You cannot afford to stop your business for the sake of the agitation,” said Kesineni Travels ticket booking counter in charge Sekhar, when contacted.
Sree Kaleswari Travels, yet another major private transport company operating in the region, has been sending buses to all destinations except Visakhapatnam for obvious reasons.
“Telangana or no Telangana, private bus operators are the first to be hit in the event of an agitation. We always lose regardless of the issue and the nature of the protest. Unlike the RTC union, private bus owners operate independently and thus will not make much difference,” says Ashok Kumar, proprietor of Vinayak Tours and Travels.
The striking RTC workers, meanwhile, engaged in a tussle with a private operator for charging an exorbitant fare of Rs. 300 from Vijayawada to Nandigama. They squatted in front of the vehicle preventing its movement. The Krishnalanka police had to intervene to pacify frayed tempers.