Government says distance cap for travel concession a disabling factor

For years, students have suffered outright rejection, peak-hour rush and abuse in buses to attend college. To make matters worse, many pay the full bus fare to go through all this.

In a relief to the constitutional right to education in the State, the government has said the restriction of travel distance to 40 km for issuing bus concession tickets to students is a “disabling factor”.

At present, students are eligible for concession only if they stay within the 40-km radius of the educational institution they attend. Those who stay outside this perimeter have to pay full bus fare like any other passenger.

“It is necessary that the restriction of travel distance allowed to students on concessional rate need be dispensed with, considering that in case of aided and governmental colleges, admission is based on pure merit and, consequently, there is a chance to get admission in a college which is situated at exceeding 40 km from the place of residence,” a December 4 order of the Transport Department said.

This order comes on a complaint filed by the Principal of the Munnar Government College in Idukki in July 2007 that most of his students travelled 50 to 60 km to attend college. And many of them were economically challenged.

Support for request

In 2011, the Transport Commissioner had also supported the Principal’s request, suggesting that the government “dispense with the restriction of 40 km as travelling distance for issuing concession ticket in stage carriages”.

The Commissioner said the government could reimburse the revenue loss to the KSRTC and bus operators.

The department’s Fare Revision Committee has in its seventh report recommended that non-withdrawal of the 40-km cap on ticket concession “might result in hardships”.

But the private bus operators are unhappy with the order. They said the order would work to further crush a depleted service going through a financial crisis.

“Private bus services across the State have depleted from 32,000 to 14,500. There are concessions being given left and right but the government is giving no alternative to the revenue loss. Besides, students from affluent background and their poor counterparts pay the same concession rate,” K. Radhakrishnan, State secretary, All Kerala Bus Operators Organisation, said.

Joint Transport Commissioner Alex Paul said the order was necessary because the number of students travelling long distances to reach colleges had increased manifold.

Students from hill areas

“There are more students coming to attend city colleges from rural, hill regions. Roughly, 20 per cent of bus commuters are students,” Mr. Paul told The Hindu.

He allayed fears saying there would not be much of a revenue loss because students travelled during fixed hours in the morning and evening. The November 4 order has asked the Fare Revision Committee to assess the revenue loss to stage carriage operators due to the lifting of the restriction.

A report will be filed within the next three months.

Prajitha K.P., a postgraduate student of English literature at a city college here, says concession alone may not be enough. She travels over 40 km from Valanchery to attend classes.

“Withdrawing the 40-km limit for travel concession is definitely a relief. But the immediate problem for many students is the hostility we encounter inside buses just because we are entitled to travel concession,” she points out.