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Badal firm profits on govt’s ‘unviable’ route

JALANDHAR: Indo-Canadian Transport Company, owned by the Badal family, has been profiting on a route that was shown “non-viable” by the state government a few months after being started five years ago.

Nikhil Bhardwaj

Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, May 3

Indo-Canadian Transport Company, owned by the Badal family, has been profiting on a route that was shown “non-viable” by the state government a few months after being started five years ago.

The government-owned Punjab Roadways had started the luxury bus service connecting Jalandhar with the Delhi international airport to cater to the NRI-dominated Doaba region. The popularity of the route could well be gauged from the fact that the Indo-Canadian transport plies 13 buses daily on the route during peak season. 

While the Punjab Roadways bus was charging a nominal Rs 650, the Indo-Canadian transport jacked up the fare to Rs 1,619 for an ordinary AC bus service and Rs 2,572 for the ‘business class’ ticket, thus ensuring the company earns a huge profit. 

The government had started the bus on the demand of the NRIs as it ensured the community a direct service from the airport to their native places. 

Punjab Roadways employee union members still insist that the service, scrapped allegedly to extend benefits to the Badals-associated Indo-Canadian transport, must be reintroduced as the NRIs arriving from Gulf nations still preferred economical bus service.

Jagdish Singh Chahal, Punjab Government Transport Workers Union general secretary, said the service was started by the Punjab Transport department in May 2010 to provide “exclusive service to the NRIs, and that too at nominal rates”. 

“The fare was Rs 350 when the bus service was started, which was much less than Rs 900 being charged by private players then. The private transporters were also forced to slash their fare to compete with us. The route proved quite profitable for the Roadways as compared to other routes,” he said.  

Chahal alleged that the day the Badals took over the Indo-Canadian company, they pressurised the Transport department to shut its service in August 2012.

Amrik Singh Gill, convener, Punjab Roadways Joint Action Committee, alleged the Indo-Canadian transport had been enjoying monopoly over the Jalandhar-Delhi airport route. He said the commuters had no choice but to shell extra money. 

Questioned why the bus service was discontinued, Transport Minister Ajit Singh Kohar said, “The commuters started preferring private buses and our service went into losses. So, we had no other option.” 

Asked whether the department was planning to resume the service, he said the matter was under consideration and nothing had been finalised yet. 

Harkamaljit Singh, an NRI from Tanda who works in Dubai, said they used to pay Rs 650 to reach the Delhi airport, but now they had to shell out a minimum Rs 1,600. 

Ranbir Singh, a Jalandhar resident based in Canada, said the Punjab government’s claim of offering low-cost transport to the NRIs visiting Punjab had fallen flat. ”We used to board the Punjab Roadways bus to reach the airport. But now we have no other option but to board the Indo-Canadian service,” he said.

Making mockery of the system

Voices of dissent

"The fare was Rs 350 when the bus service was started, which was much less than Rs 900 being charged by private players then. The private transporters too were forced to slash their fare to compete with us. The route proved quite profitable for the Roadways when compared to other routes."— Jagdish Singh Chahal, gen secy of transport workers’ body

"The Indo-Canadian transport had been enjoying monopoly over the Jalandhar-Delhi airport route. Commuters had no choice, but to shell out extra bucks." —Amrik Singh Gill,  convener, punjab roadways joint action committee

"We used to board the Punjab Roadways bus to reach the airport. But now we have no other option, but to board the Indo-Canadian service." —Ranbir Singh,  jalandhar resident based in canada

Ministerspeak

"Gradually, the commuters started preferring private buses and our service went into losses. We had no other option (but to discontinue the Jalandhar-Delhi airport Volvo bus service)." —Ajit Singh Kohar, Transport minister

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