The West Bengal transport department will issue a notice before Durga Puja asking private buses and mini buses to refrain from increasing fares arbitrarily.
Transport minister Snehasis Chakraborty said he would hold a meeting with bus operators to work out at a solution that would be beneficial to both them and the passengers.
“We need to ensure that the general public do not face the heat of any steep fare hike. There has to be a regulatory mechanism,” he said.
Bus operators have said that any unilateral decision without consultation with stakeholders would not be accepted. They have also stressed that a fare revision was necessary in the post-COVID scenario.
The general secretary of West Bengal Bus and Mini Bus Owners’ Association, Pradip Narayan Basu, said bus fares had last been revised in July 8, 2018, and operating buses with the current fare chart was nothing short of impossible in the post-COVID situation.
The industry has been reeling under losses incurred due to COVID-induced lockdown and subsequent hike in petrol and diesel prices, Basu explained.
“Our conductors are requesting for allowances of Rs 1-4 from passengers depending on the distance covered by them. This is the minimum possible amount that we seek to recover the cost of running a vehicle. We had been regularly urging the government to arrive at a solution so that the industry can sustain, the employees can survive, and the commuters are not overburdened. If there is any move on the part of the government to force us to accept the 2018 fare chart without discussions, private buses in the entire state will come to a halt,” Basu said.
He noted that 44,000 carriages (private buses and minibuses) were plying the state before the pandemic struck “but the number has now come down to 27,000”.