The state government will pay 90 per cent of the contract amount for election duty to private bus and minibus operators whose vehicles are requisitioned for transporting polling personnel ahead of the civic elections in the city on December 19.
The operators will also receive pending dues — close to Rs 9 lakh — within this week.
The move comes at a time when private and minibus owners have been struggling to survive amid rising operational costs and diminishing returns in the pandemic. Several private bus operators have withdrawn their buses from the roads, unable to break even in these trying times.
The Telegraph had earlier reported about private and minibus owners demanding 100 per cent advance before they engage their personnel to accompany the vehicles for the municipal polls, less than a fortnight away.
This was foremost among other conditions for the operators to engage in any discussion on requisitioning of buses by the state government for the ensuing elections.
If their demands were not met, the owners had threatened to not provide staff for operating the vehicles.
On Monday, senior officials assured the operators they would receive at least 90 percent of the total contract amount before buses and minibuses were requisitioned for the December 19 elections across 144 wards of Kolkata Municipal Corporation.
The pending dues, too, will be cleared by this week, the officials have assured, following a meeting with private bus and minibus operators.
Nearly 600 buses and 800 minibuses will be required to transport polling personnel to booths across the city.
“The state government would earlier pay between 65 per cent and 75 per cent in advance. This is the first time there is a promise of paying 90 per cent in advance of the total contractual amount,” said Pradip Narayan Bose of the West Bengal Bus and Minibus Owners Association.
Senior officials of the transport department said the bus operators will be paid Rs 2,300 per day for three days and minibus operators Rs 1,900 per day for the same period.
“The advance will be paid before the process of requisitioning the vehicles begins next week. Buses and minibuses will be hired for three days starting December 17,” said a senior official of the transport department.
The state government has also decided to maintain a logbook for each vehicle requisitioned with details of the ward and booth where the bus or minibus travels on poll duty.
Officers said this will help maintain records about the expenditure on fuel, which will be provided by the state government.
The decision to maintain a logbook was arrived at following an interaction with operators who said anomalies arise because the distance covered by a vehicle is often not logged and as a result, some bus and minibus owners have to face deductions from their final bills that are submitted for payment.