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Second panel on fare hike

The committee set up by the state government to look into the demand for a hike in bus fares has decided to form another panel to find out whether the operators can survive without a raise.

This despite education minister Partha Chatterjee, who heads the committee, admitting that one needs to pay more for getting good facilities on buses.

The new committee, comprising automobile engineers and transport analysts, will go through papers submitted by operators of private buses to Chatterjee’s panel and run a check on their claims.

The panel, to be headed by transport secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, will also have representatives of two passenger committees.

The committee has seven days to file its report, based on which the “all-party” panel headed by Chatterjee will take a decision.

“The bus operators have already submitted their opinions. Let engineers and experts run a check,” Chatterjee said on Thursday, after the second meeting of his committee.

“One would have to pay more to get good passenger facilities,” the minister said.

Chatterjee dubbed the Congress and the Left “cowards” for staying out of the “all-party” committee.

The two non-Trinamul representatives in the seven-member committee are the SUCI’s Tarun Naskar and former CPM leader Abdur Rezzak Mollah. Naskar attended Thursday’s meeting but Mollah did not.

The other members, apart from Chatterjee, are transport minister Madan Mitra, housing minister Aroop Biswas, urban development minister Firhad Hakim and Trinamul MLA Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay. Around five representatives of passenger committees were invited to Thursday’s meeting.

“I have advised the government to consider whether the sales tax on diesel (18.38 per cent) and the cess of Re 1 can be partly withdrawn for vehicles engaged in mass transportation, like buses and mini-buses,” Naskar said.

The bus fares were last hiked in November 2012, a year after Mamata Banerjee had taken over the reins of the state government. The fares were then raised by Re 1. Since then, the price of diesel has gone up by Rs 12.77 a litre.