Tribune News Service
Ambala, May 10
Fewer passengers, rising fuel prices and Covid restrictions have left private bus operators high and dry in the district. There are 65 private buses of cooperative societies in the district and majority of them are currently off-road.
Surender Raju Sharma, a private bus operator in Ambala Cantonment, said, “We are allowed to ply buses with 50 per cent of the capacity and under such circumstances, we are unable to even recover the cost of fuel. Majority of the buses are off-road as it is not viable to operate with limited passengers. Private bus operators usually have instalments to pay and give salaries to drivers and conductors. There are at least two drivers and one conductor with every bus, who are employed for a salary of at least Rs 12,000 each. Besides, there are taxes and parking fees also which add to our burden. After investing so much money and with rising fuel prices, we are not even able to recover the cost of fuel.”
Vivek Choudhary, another private bus operator in Ambala City, said, “We have been facing huge losses since last year. Not only the bus operators but also all other businesses are facing losses due to the Covid pandemic. Even when the lockdown was lifted, the number of passengers remained on the lower side due to the fear of virus. Initially, we reduced the number of trips but it was still not viable and then we had no other option but to keep the buses off-road and pay the salary, insurance and taxes without even plying the bus. Besides, we also don’t want to risk the lives of our drivers and conductors amid the ongoing second wave.”
Haryana Sehkari Parivahan Committee Kalyan Sangh Ambala district president Ram Nath Rana said, “The restrictions on number of passengers have made bus operations unviable and the industry is struggling for its survival. We pay passenger tax worth Rs 12,000 per month, Rs 2,200 parking fees, and then there are instalments ranging from Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 per month and other expenses. There is no rebate. The industry is going through a tough time and we don’t have much expectations from the government. We are just waiting for the situation to improve.”
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