Running at a loss, pvt bus operators lay off staff

Badly affected by government’s free travel scheme for women, hike in fuel prices

Running at a loss, pvt bus operators lay off staff

Despite recent government directions restricting 50 per cent occupancy in buses, a large number of women were seen boarding buses at the ISBT in Amritsar. Photo: Vishal Kumar

Neeraj Bagga

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, April 22

Private public transporters have stopped plying a large number of their buses and laid off drivers, conductors and other staff after the government’s offer of free bus travel to women passengers hit their business.

The number of buses running daily has dropped from 1,500 to just 600 at the Shahid Madan Lal Dhingra Inter-State Bus Terminal (ISBT).

Private public transporters are already at economic disadvantage after a spike in fuel prices and taxes such as special road tax of Rs2.7 per km, EMI of at least Rs50,000 which they had bought on loan and high insurance cost on a bus which is between Rs75,000 to Rs80,000 per year.

Makhan Singh, whose family has been in public transport profession for the past four decades, said he had not seen such slump in the business earlier, and out of 35 only 10 buses were being plied. “Around 75 per cent of passengers in buses are women. The government’s offer of free ride has weaned away our passengers.”

I have not seen such a slump in the business earlier, and out of 35, only 10 buses are being plied. Around 75 per cent of passengers are women. The government's offer of free ride has weaned away our passengers. —Makhan Singh, A public transporter

“The government offered travel to women without realising its impact on the transport business,” he said, adding that many transporters, unable to bear the long slump, had turned defaulters as they could not pay EMIs, insurance, taxes and other costs in time.

Dilbagh Singh, another transporter, said first the lockdown and later Covid travel restrictions caused them losses for at least nine to 10 months last year. Opening of economy brought little cheers to them as there was a hike of approximately Rs20 per litre in fuel prices, increasing their input cost. He said cost of spare parts of trucks also increased recently and tyres of stationary buses were rotting and quality of machines was deteriorating.

Daljit Singh, a driver, said including him, many drivers and conductors had become unemployed and were looking for some other works.

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