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Operate buses only in city, says court

Kochi Bureau
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Shortage of KSRTC buses in Kochi to continue till end of Sabarimala season

Few and far between:A Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus in Kochi.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah
Few and far between:A Kerala State Road Transport Corporation bus in Kochi.— Photo: K.K. Mustafah

The Kerala High Court on Thursday orally observed that the government could not operate buses allotted to Kochi under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) scheme to destinations outside the city limits.

Justice P.N. Ravindran made the observation when a writ petition filed against the operation of buses allotted under the scheme outside the city and district came up for hearing.

The court orally opined that as per the scheme, the buses should be operated only in urban areas.

The court also asked the Advocate General to explain the government’s stand on the issue. The case was posted on December 14 for hearing.

The petition was filed by High Court lawyer K.P. Pradeep.

According to him plying of buses beyond the city limits was against the guidelines of JNNURM schemes. The guidelines had stipulated that the fund allotted under the scheme could only be utilised for improving the transport facilities of urban areas. The scheme had envisaged forming a special purpose vehicle or a public body for implementing the scheme. However, the buses bought under the scheme were entrusted with the KSRTC for operation. The petitioner said passengers in the city who were reeling under inadequate transportation facilities were hardest hit by the decision of the authorities.

Shortage of buses

There is an acute shortage of buses in the city as less than half of the 70 Tirukochi buses allotted to Kochi are in operation.

Even the almost 100 buses promised two years ago by the KSRTC remains a pipe dream. The inordinate delay in repairing the agency’s low-floor buses has added to the woes of commuters.

The Tirukochi and low-floor buses were launched over two years ago to augment public transport in the city. The 100 additional Tirukochi buses were promised in view of the increasing demand for buses from commuters. A few of the buses were planned to be used for operating night services.

Lack of manpower and diversion of many buses to Sabarimala were the reasons given by KSRTC officials for the shortage of Tirukochi buses. KSRTC zonal officer Chandra Babu said over 80 buses from Ernakulam zone had been diverted to Sabarimala.

“The shortage of buses in Kochi will continue till the Sabarimala season is over.”

Crew members who were employed on a temporary basis and others who were on the RTC’s rolls have been abstaining from work. The KSRTC is unable to make fresh appointments as the striking workers have not submitted their resignation letters.

“There is a delay in making appointments to a few vacancies, though the rank list is ready,” said KSRTC Assistant Transport Officer George Thomas. With dozens of fast passenger and superfast buses diverted to Sabarimala, the bus service in inter-district routes is also inadequate. Lack of sufficient buses has led to heated exchanges between commuters and bus crew in different places, including at the RTC’s Ernakulam stand and Vyttila Mobility Hub.

Indefinite strike

“KSRTC buses have also ended the monopoly of private bus services in the city. Till recently, private bus owners and crew feared to go on strikes since they knew that passengers would turn to KSRTC city services,” said Venu T.P., district secretary of the KSRTC Employees’ Association (CITU). Private bus workers unions have threatened to launch yet another indefinite stir from December 29, demanding wage hike.

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