KERALA

Private bus operators threaten strike

KOCHI, JUNE 1. Private bus operators in the State have threatened to go on strike demanding a hike in bus fares.

The president of the Kerala State Private Bus Operators' Federation, Khalid Mundapilly, in a press release issued here stated that many bus owners were facing financial problems because of the hike in the price of fuel, and other expenses. The Central Government has plans to hike the price of diesel even further.

The price of diesel went up by Rs 8 ever since the bus fare was last hiked in 2001. Taxes, fees and fines too have gone up. Spare parts cost more now and there is the pending problem of extending concession to students and the restriction on permits. Talks were held between Federation representatives and the Transport Minister, R. Balakrishna Pillai, about four months back. But no solution has been found to the issues raised by the operators, leave alone a hike in bus fare, Mr. Mundapilly said.

"A one-man Commission had been appointed to study the problems faced by bus operators and a report was submitted by him, but the Government has not taken a compassionate view of the proposals. The Labour Department had taken a few steps to amend the Kerala Motor Thozhilali Kshema Nidhi Rules, but nothing has been implemented. The Government should have a re-look at the decision to withdraw buses which are more than 15-years old. The period should be increased to at least 20 years," he said.

He added that the Federation welcomes the Central Government's policy of ensuring the availability of diesel and petrol at reasonable rates.