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Madan hints at fare hike

Bus fares are likely to be hiked before Puja, transport minister Madan Mitra said on Wednesday.

The committee set up by the state government to look into the fare-hike demand of private bus operators is scheduled to meet on Friday, when a draft of the final proposal is likely to be drawn up. The proposal will be sent to chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her consent. The new fare structure would come into effect if she clears it.

“The committee would, in all probability, draw up its final report when it meets next. A new fare structure should be in place before Puja,” Mitra said on the sidelines of the “global launch” of Ashok Leyland’s low-floor “Jan Bus” in the city on Wednesday.

Thirty full flat-floor buses, funded under the JNNURM scheme, would be plying on 11 routes across the city. The buses will be operated by the Calcutta State Transport Corporation.

“The state government is bringing in new buses. But there is no competition with private operators. The committee has been working hard for some time to bring into consideration different aspects of pricing. Hopefully, the matter would be resolved soon,” Mitra said.

The state government had last month set up a committee chaired by the minister of education, Partha Chatterjee, to look into the demands of private bus operators seeking a revision of fares. The operators submitted a detailed report on why they were demanding a hike and how the price of diesel had spiralled over the years while the fares have remained the same.

“We are told that there would be a further revision of diesel prices on Thursday. The committee is aware of the task cut out for it. Let’s see,” said Mitra, who is a part of the committee.

In November 2012, a year after taking over the reins, the Mamata Banerjee government had decided to hike bus fares by Re 1 in the face of demands from private bus operators.

The price of diesel has gone up by nearly Rs 12 a litre since but the government has not allowed any further hike.

“We only hope the government wakes up to the harsh reality. Buses have started disappearing from the roads and unless the government intervenes, soon there will only be a handful of private operators left to run buses,” said Tapan Bandyopadhyay of the Joint Council of Bus Syndicates, the largest body of private bus operators in Bengal.