State transport minister and Calcutta mayor Firhad Hakim said on Saturday that he had asked police to keep an eye on buses that are running without fitness certificates and insurance.
All buses must possess these two documents before they hit the road, he said.
The state government issued an order in April saying that late fees would not be charged from those who had not taken the mandatory fitness test for vehicles. Officials said the move was meant to encourage defaulters to get their vehicles certified for fitness.
“I have asked the police to be stringent against buses that do not have the certificate of fitness and insurance papers. They should not even let go of the state buses if they lack these documents,” Hakim said.
Senior officials of the transport department said they were yet to assess the number of private buses that had cleared their fees and updated their certificates of fitness.
“The deadline for clearing dues by paying a nominal fee of Rs 1,500 and updating the fitness ends on Sunday. We will sit down to take stock next week,” said a senior official of the department.
On April 18, Rajesh Kumar Singh, transport secretary, issued an order waiving late fine fees for failing to take the mandatory fitness tests to all transport vehicle owners by paying a one-time amount of Rs 1,500 per vehicle to those who have missed their deadline by over a month. The waiver would remain valid for three months.
In the existing system, undertaking a fitness test costs Rs 850 and failure to complete it within the stipulated period invites a fine of Rs 50 every day. A year’s penalty works out to Rs 18,250, an amount several bus owners said they could not afford.
“Barring a few private bus owners, most have updated the fitness of their vehicles," said Tito Saha, general secretary of the City Suburban Bus Service.
"”The waiver scheme has come as a huge relief to private bus owners.”
Police officers said the revised fine for not possessing a valid fitness certificate now is Rs 10,000 and the same holds true for those plying without a valid permit and licence.
More than fitness, several bus owners said the challenge lay in clearing the insurance fees, which vary between Rs 59,00 to 62,000 annually.
Most bus owners have been struggling to arrange for this amount after paying daily wages to the staff.
Sources in the transport department said the state government was also struggling to clear the insurance premium of its fleet of buses allegedly because of funds crunch.