A political stunt?

Private Bus Strikes are often an annual "festival" here in Kerala. The reasons for bus strike range from issues as meagre as altercation between passengers and conductor, to major issues like fare hike. A week back, crew of private buses in Kochi city struck work to protest their working condition, and demand a wage hike. The effects of the city bus strike was neutralised by KSRTC, which operated over 180 buses in the city (75 regular Thirukochi services, 60 JnNURM Low Floor buses and 48 extra buses) - thats a small number compared to the 650 Private city buses that were striking work.

Bus owners' association has now announced another indefinite bus strike, from February 17 (tomorrow). This time, their demands (as ever) are: Increase bus fares (already among the highest in the country), increase students' concession fares (the current fares were fixed in 2001!) and reduce KSRTC services (interesting!). But the catch here is that two major district Private bus operators association have already withdrawn support to the strike (Kozhikode and Ernakulam). The Government had appointed a committee to study the problems faced by private bus operators, and the committee is expected to report very soon. Given this, the two district operators feel the bus strike is 'untimely'.

A year back (in January 2010), Private buses kept off the road for 3 consecutive days, which made life really difficult to passengers in the state - given the fact that about 75% of Kerala's public transport is controlled by private buses. This bus strike was dotted by a many public litigation at the Hon. High Court of Kerala. At the end, the government gave in to the private operators' demands. Three days of hardships faced by the passengers left them fuming. The operators' had their demands (not all of them - but one major demand: Fare hike) met - and at the end, the passengers were at the receiving end.

All this brings one question - are these strikes stage managed? How does the government give in to the operators' demands so quickly? If the government is ready to give in, why on earth should passengers be forced to bear these hardships? The next 'episode' of bus strike, to begin tomorrow, is also another drama. The government would only give in to their demands, and raise bus fares to the highest in the country. The current fare is 55 paise per kilometre (subject to minimum of Rs. 4) - and the operators want this to be raised to 65 paise per kilometre (subject to minimum of Rs. 5).

Our neighbour, Tamilnadu, charges 27 paise per kilometre, and their minimum fare is only Rs. 2!! While operators in Tamilnadu agree that the fare is artificially kept low - the corporations have go into the 'other' means of fare hike like operating "deluxe" buses, which charge twice the regular fares, and so on. A newer trend is to arbitrarily increase fares by "naming" services. Point-to-point, and 'bypass rider' services charge higher than regular fares for the faster service they provide.

Given the fact that the state elections are just two months away, the government would try its best to save its skin - and as usual, passengers would be at the receiving end! All I can wish here is, the government takes a tough stance on such operators - there are legal provisions to cancel permits of such operators. But then, that too puts passengers at the receiving end! Its time passengers took a tough stance.


vinchel said…
Well all the private bus owners are in a nexus with political leaders. They say every month they are incurring more losses when they run a bus service. Then how come the same buses are around for 2-3 years?
one of the solutions is for the Govt to lease all the buses from private owners like TN and operate all the buses
Binai K Sankar said…
Are u sure TNSTC takes leased buses from private operators? I am hearing this for the first time. APSRTC has over 3100 buses taken on hire. MSRTC hires most of its "premium" buses on lease.