It appears that special drives carried out by officials of the Transport Department to check private operators charging exorbitant fares during festive seasons have made no impact in giving relief to the general public. This Deepavali festive season too, skyrocketing bus fares are burning holes in the purses of people for long distance travel. For example, the online booking sites show fares of over ₹2,000 for Bengaluru – Mangalore bus travel, whereas over ₹3,500 charged for travel from Bengaluru to Hyderabad. For Bengaluru to Belagavi, the travellers are charging up to ₹3,400 per seat. For many other long distance routes, the fares are double the normal fares.
Transport Commissioner T.H.M Kumar claims that during the last festive season of Dasara, the transport department officials carried out drives across Karnataka booking close to 1,000 cases. “Our officials during the drive booked cases against errant operators for fleecing the passengers. We have been directing them to charge fares that are charged on normal days and not to hike the fares to exploit the situation. The enforcing staff had also booked cases against the operators for violating permit rules and others,” he said.
The official claims that enforcement activities had its impact but passengers are not ready to buy the argument. A private company employee Shravan R. who tried to book a ticket to Mangaluru said, “Last week, I tried to book a ticket to my native place. The booking portal displayed a fare of ₹2,200 when I was looking for a particular bus operator. The fare shown was excluding tax. Operators charging exorbitant fares are becoming a routine every festive season. The officials claim to be taking action but it is nothing but a futile exercise.”
Another traveller Praveen Kumar said, “To travel from Bengaluru to Hyderabad for sleeper coach, I used to pay close to ₹1,700 but now that fares have more than doubled. The authorities should fix a cap on increasing the fare during the fare instead of allowing the operators to fleece the passengers.”
In their defence, the private operators maintain that Karnataka government is showing disparity and targeting only the private bus operators. “In a week, barring Friday and Sunday on rest of the days the buses are operated half empty. During the festive season, the operators go for hikes to meet the operational costs. The transport department that targets the private operators allows State-run corporations to charge flexible fares which allow them to charge more when the demand surges. But when the private operators do that they are being targeted. On the other hand, there are rules to initiate action against tourist and contract carriage operators on charging fares. Fare regulations applicable for stage carriage buses. When other sectors are allowed to dynamic pricing why the private bus operators are targeted?,” private bus operator Nataraj Sharma asked.
When asked about private operators’ demand to allow dynamic pricing, the transport commissioner said, “There are no rules to allow such pricing. Such pricing will go against the interest of the general public relying on buses to commute.”