A revision of bus fares is on the cards in Kerala with a Cabinet sub-committee favouring revision on Monday. Talks to avert strike by private bus operators over fare revision and other issues, however, failed.
The Joint Action Council of private bus operators announced that they would go on indefinite strike from Tuesday as the Transport Minister Jose Thettayil had not given clear assurances on any of their demands during the talks.
The Minister told the media that the Cabinet sub-committee, constituted to consider fare revision, had recommended to the government that a fare revision should be considered in principle. However, it had recommended against a change in the concession rates for students.
Mr. Thettayil said that government would propose new rates of fares on the basis of the study being conducted by National Transportation Planning and Automation Centre here, subject to approval of the Left Democratic Front. The government needed 15 days to complete the process. However, the bus operators were not willing to postpone their strike by 15 days.
He said that the Cabinet sub-committee had proposed that a statutory body should be set up to consider future bus fare revisions on the lines of the electricity tariff revision commissions.
Referring to the claim of the operators that the State Road Transport Corporation was operating services in an irregular manner affecting their revenues; the Minister said that the Corporation was operating services as per its permits. As to their complaints about using speed governors, they have to comply with the law. Speed governors were introduced as per an order of the Supreme Court.
He said that the strike proposed by the bus operators was aimed at causing hardships to the people, especially during the Sabarimala pilgrimage season. The government would face it strongly. The KSRTC would operate more number of services to reduce the hardships of people. Service to Sabarimala would be accorded priority. The proposed strike by unions of KSRTC workers would not affect the services as only a section of the staff was going on strike. Besides, the government would grant temporary permits to contract carriages to operate bus services.
The chairman of the Joint Action Council of bus operators A. K. Abdullah and convenor T. Gopinath said that they had not got a clear response from the government on any of their demands. Though they were informed of the Cabinet sub committee decision, no time frame was mentioned for announcing the revision. There were no assurances on student concession, stoppage of irregular operation of services through common routes by the KSRTC and speed governors. The Council wanted the government to develop and introduce a usable equipment to control speed.