An all-party committee has been proposed to discuss hiking bus fares

The meeting of bus owners’ organisations with State Transport Minister Madan Mitra here on Wednesday failed to bring to an end the impasse of the organisations with the State government, with bus owners deciding to go ahead with the bus strike from June 25 to June 28.

Citing hike in fuel prices, bus owners have long wanted to increase bus fares, something which Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is not too keen on allowing. Bus fares were last increased in November, 2012.

“We are going ahead with the strike. We have given the notice of the strike to Mr. Mitra,” joint secretary of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicate Tapan Banerjee told The Hindu. However, the bus owners have not denied that they can still negotiate.

“Another meeting will be convened on June 21 to propose the formation of an all-party committee which would look into the issue of hiking bus fares. The committee will have to submit a report within one month,” Mr. Banerjee said. The all-party committee would constitute Mr. Mitra, representatives from all parties and four Cabinet Ministers.

Economic report

“We have been asked to immediately submit an economic report,” Mr. Banerjee said. The organisations have already submitted such reports in the past, he added.

Citing a decrease in their share of profits owing to the gradual increase of fuel prices, bus owners had previously called for bus strikes only to revoke them later on. Disallowing bus fares to be increased, the government had stated that bus owners earn enough profit and that increase in fuel prices would not affect their profits.

“For every 100 paisa that we earn, we have to spend at least 293 paisa. As per the Calcutta’s High Court’s regulations, a bus can ply on the road for 15 years. When we buy a new bus, we end up paying EMI for the first 12 years which means a bus earns us profit for the last three years. How will we get profits then?” Mr. Banerjee said.

Premeditated move

Alleging that bus owners were hand-in-glove with the State government, addressing a press conference earlier in the day State Left Front committee Biman Bose had said the strike had been a pre-meditated move.

“Maybe an agreement had been fixed earlier with the State government and bus owners,” Mr. Bose said.

Condemning Mr. Bose’s reactions, Mr. Banerjee said: “Mr. Bose made a political reaction.

We don’t have allegiance to any one party and neither is our organisation a political one.”