Steel city commuters must gear up to shell out more for travelling in the swanky private town buses, popularly known as minibuses, from August 1.
Frequent hikes in diesel prices have prompted minibus operators, who are apparently counting losses, to raise the fares on all 14 routes in Jamshedpur by Re 1 or 25 per cent after a gap of three years. The last time the fare was revised on September 11, 2011.
Shikshit Berozgar Minibus Association, the umbrella outfit of private bus operators, took the latest fare hike decision on Monday morning. A delegation has already been sent to Ranchi to apprise officiating chief secretary Sajal Chakraborty of their decision.
A proposal to withdraw concessions on fares to students is also on the cards.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Sanjay Pandey, general secretary of Shikshit Berozgar Minibus Association, said they had no option but to increase the tariff because of the huge jump in diesel prices in the past two years. At present, diesel sells at Rs 60.34 a litre in Jamshedpur.
“We had left the minibus fares untouched for nearly three years. During this time period, diesel prices shot up by more than Rs 14 per litre. We are no longer able to manage as the losses are huge. Hence, we decided to increase the fares on all routes by 25 per cent from August 1,” Pandey said.
So, one has to now shell Rs 5 instead of Rs 4 for a ride from Sakchi to Bistupur and Rs 6 instead of Rs 5 for Sakchi to Jugsalai. Similarly, the fare from Sakchi to Tatanagar station will go up from Rs 6 to Rs 7.
The hike is expected to deal the worst blow to the bulk of middle class passengers, industrial workers and students, who largely depend on the 125-plus minibus fleet to travel within the city. With a seating capacity of 30-35 each, the minibuses ferry over 1.5 lakh passengers on a given day and are arguably the cheapest mode of conveyance given that its fares are lower by at least 20-30 per cent than those of auto-rickshaws.
Although the JNNURM city buses charge lesser (Rs 3 for the first stop), they only ply on four routes and don’t have any fixed schedule.
“We agree that there has been a steep increase in fuel prices, but we feel that the 25 per cent fare hike is a bit too much. They should have raised the fare marginally every year,” said Telco resident Ankit Anand.
The minibus owners are also planning to stop offering concessions to students, who account for over 40 per cent of passengers. “We have been giving 40 per cent concession on fares to students for several years. But auto-rickshaws are eating into our profits by picking up passengers by parking right in front of our designated bus stops with the district administration doing little to monitor them. We have no option but to consider withdrawing student concession for the time being,” Pandey said.
A final decision will be taken in a day or two.
Students are worried.
“Private buses are relatively safer than autos. They have emergency numbers of police stations and senior officers on display and the staff wear uniforms. If the concession is pulled back, we won’t be able to ride on them,” said Moushumi Sarkar of Jamshedpur Women’s College.