Kochi

Tourist buses from Kochi stranded in West Bengal

Around 400 tourist buses that operated trips from Perumbavoor and other parts of Kerala to ferry migrant workers back to their home States are reportedly stranded in West Bengal, Assam and other places, following the lull in demand to return to Kerala.

Workers cite the non-availability of jobs due to the prevailing lockdown in the State and the Ramzan season as reasons to postpone their return trips to Kerala.

“Travel agents/bus operators used to charge a return fare of around ₹2.50 lakh per bus during the 2020 lockdown, when there was heavy and steady outflow of workers from Kerala. Buses could thus operate return trip to Kerala, even sans passengers, without suffering monetary loss. This is not the situation now, since the exodus out of Kerala is relatively lower. Most operators charged only around ₹1.25 lakh, the fare for single trip, on the hope that they would get passengers for the return trip. Sadly, this was not the case and vast number of buses and their crew are stuck there,” said Tensen P I, a travel agent.

“The demand for return trip will gather momentum only after Ramzan and the lockdown in Kerala is lifted. Thus, around 15 of the 30 buses that we sent from Kochi are stranded in West Bengal. So we have temporarily halted trips to these States,” he added.

The demand from workers was a blessing in disguise for tourist bus operators since many of them had opted out of service in 2020, due to cancellation of tour packages. Most buses have the AC option, but operate non-AC trips for around ₹3,500 per passenger (fare for Kochi-Bengal trip), in adherence to COVID norms. Passengers have to wear mask throughout the journey.

Most workers opt for buses when they fail to get rail tickets which are priced ₹950 for sleeper class and ₹2,200 for AC sleeper up to Odisha, said Charu Gangai, a native of Odisha who is based in Kochi.

The delay and other constraints in rail and road travel have prompted many workers to opt for flights to reach their home States, said Titus Etturuthil, owner of a travel agency. “They shell out a little more than the bus or AC train fare and take a flight to Chennai or Bengaluru, from where they take connecting flights to reach their destination, in around eight-hours time, unlike three or four days by bus or train, in which case they need to spend additionally on food.”


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Printable version | Jun 22, 2021 5:12:37 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/tourist-buses-from-kochi-stranded-in-west-bengal/article34522690.ece

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