Private bus operators, commuters slam rule to regulate services

The government permitting resumption of operation of private buses only on alternate days, based on their registration number ending in odd or even number, is wholly unscientific and must hence be reviewed, commuters, bus operators and NGOs have demanded.

City-based Janakeeya Anweshana Samity is among the NGOs that are on the forefront seeking a rollback of the new norm, which it termed as highly impractical. Its general convener T.N. Pratapan cited the example of 42 Vyttila-city-Vyttila circular-service buses, of which 20 operate through Vyttila-Thammanam-Palarivattom-city-Vyttila route. “Many of the 42 buses had temporarily halted service, citing inadequate patronage due to the pandemic situation and the skyrocketing fuel price. The odd/even rule has further reduced their number and less than eight buses operated trips on Thursday and Friday,” he said.

This is wholly insufficient to meet the demand from passengers, especially so since there are four colonies on the Thammanam route where daily-wage earners and domestic helps reside. Operating buses on the basis of odd/even numbers also throw their schedule haywire, affecting reliability of services and forcing commuters to wait on end for a bus, the Samity said, in a letter addressed to the Minister for Transport and the Transport Commissioner. “I also spoke in person to the two people,” Mr. Pratapan, a senior citizen who is a regular bus commuter, said.

Rural areas worst hit

The new rule will result in a bus being able to operate only 10 days a month, since bus services are even otherwise banned on Saturday and Sunday, said K.B. Suneer, general secretary of Ernakulam District Private Bus Operators’ Association.

“It may also lead to crowding in existing bus services during peak hours. The worst hit will be people residing in rural areas which were networked by a bus or two. We have demanded a rollback of the rule and exemption on road tax and workers’ welfare board payment for a year, considering that the price of diesel increased by ₹26 a litre during the past 14 months. The State government seems to have forgotten the fact that markets and shops will come alive only if buses resume regular operation,” he said.

City-based bus operator George Joseph spoke of how the odd/even number rule came at a time when just over 10% of the 12,000 private buses were operating in Kerala.

“The new regulation will further bring down their number. Apart from stifling commuters and bus operators/workers, it will lessen the State government’s income from fuel tax by approximately ₹1,500 per day per bus, since it got ₹36 directly and indirectly as tax from a litre of diesel that was sold.”

Interest-free loan

The government must also encourage retrofitting CNG kits in buses, by making available interest free loans from institutions like Kerala Financial Corporation (KFC), since there is a rate difference of around ₹40 between a litre of diesel and a kg of CNG. Buses fuelled by CNG cause much lesser air and sound pollution and are also more fuel efficient, Mr. Joseph said.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 10:26:47 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/private-bus-operators-commuters-slam-rule-to-regulate-services/article34874307.ece

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