Sept. 14: The hike in diesel prices might make travelling in city buses costlier.
Bus owners are likely to hike the fare if the state government does not take any initiative to either lower the cost of diesel or fix a rate for city bus fare in keeping with the rising expenditure of operating these vehicles.
Apart from this, fares of all public vehicles are also likely to see a hike if the state government does not take any action to regulate fuel prices, claimed members of the All Assam Motor Transport Association while interacting with the media in the city today. The association also appealed to the public to co-operate in case a hike in transport fare is imminent.
“The Union government has without any warning increased the price of diesel by Rs 5 and this will have a negative impact on our business. Apart from the price hike, we also have to pay taxes which amounts toan increase of Rs 11 in diesel price. While the fuel prices have increased several times during the past two years, the state government has done nothing to increase fares. We had even submitted two memorandums to the state government in 2010 and 2011 after hike of fuel prices, but have not received any positive response so far,” said Pradip Das, secretary general of the association.
Section 67 D of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1939, states that only the government can fix the fare of public transport, but there is no mention of how the fare will be fixed in case of a hike in fuel prices. Hence, the association has suggested that the state government should increase the bus fare according to the formula. Passengers here are charged a meagre 60-65 paisa per kilometre, while in Delhi, passengers are charged Rs 10 per kilometre.
“The last time the state government increased the fare, it was the long-distance buses that stood to gain. The mini city buses have only been incurring losses. We will also hold a meeting to discuss the matter. If the government does not increase our fare or decrease the fuel prices, we will be compelled to increase the city bus fare,” said Jafar Ali, general secretary of the Greater Guwahati Mini Bus Owner’s Association.
The Assam State Transport Corporation (ASTC)-operated vehicles get subsidy from the state government, unlike vehicles operated by private parties under the corporation.
The ASTC-operated buses can afford to run even after incurring huge losses because the state government bears the entire expense in case a vehicle is damaged but the private operators can neither ply their vehicles without insurance nor benefit from subsidy. Moreover, since the fuel hike in September 27, 2010, the insurance price of vehicles has increased by 70 per cent, road tax by 36 per cent and tyre price by 40 per cent,” said Das.
“About 99 per cent of the private bus operators are local youths and the livelihood of 14 families is associated with the operation of a single bus. How will they sustain if the business is affected so badly? We will hold a meeting in Nagaon on September 30 to discuss the issue. If the state government does not respond, we may launch an agitation or increase the fares,” said Ratul Chandra Sarma, executive president of the association.