Chinsurah, Oct. 17: Private buses in Hooghly are literally going around with a begging bowl because the government would not allow fares to be hiked.
Passengers have already started paying up to Rs 2 more per trip after the operators put up posters on their buses that appealed for the survival of the families of the owners and workers.
The administration has termed the move illegal, while the reaction of passengers has been mixed.
The move comes in the wake of the Mamata Banerjee government’s refusal to hike bus fares even though diesel prices have gone up by Rs 5 a litre.
The Hooghly District Bus and Minibus Owners’ Association is affiliated to the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, the largest umbrella organisation of bus operators in the state.
The president of the Hooghly District Bus and Minibus Owners’ Association, Debabrata Bhowmik, said the organisation had not taken part in the three-day bus strike from September 17 in “the interests of passengers”. The association runs 2,500 buses and 150 mini buses.
“But it became increasingly difficult for us to operate buses because of the diesel price hike. So we discussed our problems with the passengers and decided to hike the fares. The new fares kicked in from Monday and so far, we have received a good response from the passengers. But we are not forcing anyone to pay the increased fares,” Bhowmik said.
He refused to explain how the association discussed the matter with the passe-ngers as there is no bus passengers’ organisation in Hooghly. “Our bus workers interacted with passengers who were willing to pay more,” he said.
While some passengers expressed anguish at the hike, a few others said they had “no problem” in paying the increased fares.
Sabita Pal, a 53-year-old government clerk who travels by bus to her office in Chinsurah from her home in Bandel Thermal Power Station Colony, said: “The bus fare was Rs 8. But from Monday, the conductors are asking for Rs 10. Even though I don’t want to pay the increased amount, I am not protesting as the other passengers are not saying anything.”
Zari worker Maqbool Hasan, 35, said he did not mind paying the increased fares. “I have no qualms about paying Rs 2 more. The prices of all commodities are increasing. So what is wrong if there is a hike in bus fares?” he said.
The regional transport officer of Hooghly, Saikat Das, termed the hike “illegal”. “If bus fares are raised by the government, it is declared through the RTOs in the districts. I don’t know of any such hike in fares by the government. I will inquire into the matter.”