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Decision on bus fare hike deferred, operators plan stir

Special Correspondent
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Aryadan Mohammed says more time needed to hear consumer rights organisations.
Aryadan Mohammed says more time needed to hear consumer rights organisations.

The government on Tuesday deferred the decision on hiking bus fares, evoking strong protest from a section of private bus owners who have threatened to launch an indefinite strike.

Minister for Transport Aryadan Mohammed told reporters after a meeting with private bus operators here that the government needed more time to hear consumer rights organisations before taking a final decision.

‘Legitimate’ demands

“Most of the demands raised by the bus operators are legitimate, yet the government has constraints in conceding them. However, the industry has to be maintained. The Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) has also been affected by the fuel price hike. It is operating at a loss of Rs.68 crore a month,” he said.

“The government is trying to find a practical solution through democratic means. The Cabinet subcommittee set up for the purpose will take the appropriate decision in another 15 days.”

Minister for Industries P.K. Kunhalikutty and senior officials of the Transport Department were present.

To avoid likely stays

Earlier, during the meeting, Mr. Mohammed said the government wanted more time to hear the views of consumer rights organisations. “Taking a hurried decision would lead to a stay order by the court resulting in a stalemate that could run into months. We are trying to prevent this situation.”

Private bus operators who participated in the meeting said their industry was on the verge of collapse. They wanted the Cabinet subcommittee to announce the hike at the meeting itself. Later at a meeting of the bus operators’ associations, leaders of six organisations decided to go on an indefinite agitation. “Our buses will stay off the roads till the government concedes our demands. The date of the stir will be finalised at a meeting of all these organisations in Ernakulam on Thursday,” said T. Gopinathan, general secretary, All Kerala Bus Operators Organisation.

Mr. Gopinathan said the increase in the price of diesel, lubricants and spare parts had made operations and maintenance prohibitively costly. “Unlike the KSRTC that is compensated by the government, we have to fend for ourselves. It is one month after the diesel price was hiked and our losses are mounting. We have no other option but to suspend operations.”

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